By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND — Leroy Bartlett, who served many years as Ward 1 Councillor, passed away December 23, 2022 at West Haldimand General Hospital. Remembered for his strong advocacy of the local agricultural community and his larger-than-life personality, Bartlett is missed by those he worked with and the community at large.
“I had the privilege of working with Leroy for two terms,” recalled County CAO Craig Manley. He continued, “Leroy was the voice of the everyman on Council.”
Manley said Bartlett always considered the county as a whole, and said one of his favourite sayings was, “Treat all communities consistently, but if you couldn’t, be fair.” Former mayor Ken Hewitt says he took Bartlett’s philosophy of fairness to heart, and that remained at the forefront of his mind throughout his mayoral career: “In Haldimand County where the wards are very diverse, you can’t always be equal…. (Leroy’s philosophy was) a really powerful statement that he not only applied throughout his career in Council, I think he applied that throughout his life.”
Hewitt continued, “Trying to always respect people and giving people an equal application of your time or energy isn’t always easy, but trying to be fair where possible, that really stuck with me.”
Manley added, “Leroy was a true gentleman and was a man of principle. He had a temper to be sure, but he always treated staff with courtesy and respect. It was an honour working with him.”
In addition to his role as a councillor, Bartlett was a coach in local sports and participated in a variety of agricultural endeavours, including the 4-H Club and the Haldimand Federation of Agriculture. He was heavily involved in the International Plowing Matches that took place in Haldimand, and he often acted as the lead point of contact for prominent representatives in the agricultural community.
“Anything that represented our farming community, Leroy had his hand in,” recalled Hewitt.
Hewitt reflected on his many years working closely with Bartlett: “He could always find the good in everything. In his world, the cup was always half full. Even when he would disagree with you, he would do it in a classy way, where no matter who you were he could make you feel good. He was committed to the County, committed to the people living in the county, and he was a really important part to our team.”
Hewitt said Bartlett’s extensive knowledge of land use and planning applications came in handy more than once as well.
“I relied on him for a lot of advice,” said Hewitt, describing Bartlett as a team player who expected similar cooperation. “Leroy took that very seriously and expected that from everyone around him.”
This commitment helped form Bartlett’s legacy in the community, with Hewitt asserting the former councillor “was able to help shape a new path” for the community. This legacy extends back to 2001, when Haldimand and Norfolk first separated.
“He became part of that Council in its very early stages. Some of the founding principles that drive today’s Council and future Councils are part of Leroy’s legacy – helping to create a culture that saw people working well together, prospering together. He set the stage for the next chapter in my opinion. Without him, it would have been very challenging for a lot of us new guys.”
Although Bartlett was known to passionately argue for issues that mattered to him, Hewitt characterized him as a man who knew when to take a step back: “I wouldn’t say he was perfect at it, but he was able to recognize when it was time to pull out of an argumentative situation.”
Hewitt said that beyond his advocacy and community activism, Bartlett’s sense of humour was second to none: “It was an art with him, he could drop a one-liner at the most appropriate time and he could get everybody to belly laugh almost as good as he could. That belly laugh was something. No one else had a belly laugh like he did, and he had the belly for it.”
Hewitt said he couldn’t thank Bartlett’s family enough for “sharing Leroy with the County and the public, and me personally…. It would have been very different without Leroy around. To share him in the way that they did, Haldimand County will forever be in debt.”
He concluded, “He was a good man.”