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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Leamington Mayor MacDonald elected first female Warden of Essex County

Updated: Dec 1, 2022


by Sylene Argent

Last Wednesday, the Mayors and Deputy Mayors of the seven regional rural municipalities – Essex, Kingsville, Lakeshore, Leamington, Tecumseh, LaSalle, and Amherstburg – were inaugurated to Essex County Council, where they will oversee upper-tier municipal operations, such as County roads and facilities, libraries, Essex-Windsor EMS, and EWSWA, over the next four-year-term.

As part of the inauguration process, members of County Council had to select a Warden – the head of County Council position – and Deputy Warden.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara and Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald allowed their names to stand for the Warden position. McNamara served as Warden for the 2018-2022 Term of Council.

Using scrutineers and blank pieces of paper to cast votes, County Council elected MacDonald for the position.

“Wow. This is huge,” MacDonald said, shortly after taking a brief pause to fan her face as she became moved by the support of her colleagues. “It is a momentous occasion for me, personally.

“I’m honoured you think enough of me to put me in this spot,” she said.

She took a moment to acknowledge those who served in the position before her, noting it was moving to join their ranks.

MacDonald is the first female to hold the position since it was established in 1853, information from the County of Essex notes.

“The time is right, look at the diversity around this table,” she said, noting the population of the region has shown they are ready for diversity and to have themselves represented at the County Council decision-making table. “It is no longer just one demographic. “Skin colour, gender, age, all of those things are represented at this table, and I am proud to be elected by you, my fellow colleagues. Thank you so much for that.”

She thanked McNamara for his support over the years. He has been someone she could go to for advice and has supported her as she has gotten involved with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). “I will forever be grateful.”

MacDonald is looking forward to leading the County of Essex Council, and encouraging its members to get to know each other and neighbouring municipalities better.

“We need to talk about what we are doing in our communities, share that and use that as guidance going forward in the County. We need to be strategic, and we learned that throughout the pandemic,” she said. “That’s when we learned to work together.”

Let’s be productive,” MacDonald said. “Let’s work as a team. Let’s be engaged like never before.”

LaSalle Mayor Crystal Meloche and Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti put their names forward for the Deputy Mayor position. County Council ended up electing Bachetti.

He said he was humbled to be elected to the position and thanked everyone, including his family, for their support. He also thanked McNamara for his service and words of encouragement.

In addition, MacDonald will work on the County’s Striking Committee with Council colleagues that were nominated to the committee, including Bachetti, Kingsville Mayor Dennis Rogers, Leamington Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke, and LaSalle Deputy Mayor Michael Akpata.

Meloche and Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy declined nominations to the committee.

Of the 14 members of County Council inaugurated, four returned with the same title they held in the 2018-2022 Term of Council; MacDonald, Verbeke, McNamara, and Bachetti. Two returned as a Mayor, but were Deputy Mayors the previous term – Meloche and Lakeshore’s Tracey Bailey.

The remaining were new: Amherstburg’s Mayor Michael Prue and Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb; Essex’s Mayor Sherry Bondy and Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley; Kingsville’s Mayor Rogers and Deputy Mayor Kimberly DeYong; Lakeshore’s Deputy Mayor Kirk Walstedt; and LaSalle’s Deputy Mayor Akpata.

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