By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
CAYUGA—Haldimand’s new Council has officially been sworn in and is ready to begin work on the 2022-2026 Council term following on the heels of a hotly contested municipal election that saw newcomer Shelley Ann Bentley elected as Haldimand’s next mayor.
The meeting began with the singing of O Canada, followed by the new Council being paraded into the chamber while Legion member Jim Yates played bagpipes. County Clerk Evelyn Eichenbaum then recited the County’s land acknowledgment statement.
Following a prayer of dedication, Bentley gave her official declaration, led by the Honourable Robert J. Nightingale, Justice.
“I will truly, faithfully, and impartially exercise this office to the best of my knowledge and ability,” read Bentley. The declaration also promises to not receive payments in a biased, corrupt or otherwise improper manner, to disclose any pecuniary interests, and to bear true allegiance to his Majesty, King Charles III. “I make this solemn declaration and promise, conscientiously believing it to be true and knowing it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath.”
Following Bentley, the six members of council recited the same declaration. Formalities aside, the time came for Haldimand’s new mayor to make her inaugural address.
“I’m extremely grateful and humbled to be elected to the chair of mayor. I would like to thank my family and friends for their continued support throughout the campaign and entering my new role. To my husband, who spent tireless days, sacrificed his favourite time of the year to be with me every step of the way, there are no words to express the appreciation and love I have for you,” began Bentley.
She offered tribute to her late mother and sister, Kaye Peacock and Sharon Bentley, “Without them, I would not be where I am today. They instilled hard work, determination, and dedication. For them, I am eternally grateful. I know they are both in heaven sending their blessings.”
Bentley also took a moment to recognize municipal staff, “who work so diligently on our behalf, and are not commended enough for all the work they do. Thank you so much.”
She continued, “I was fortunate during this campaign to meet wonderful people of Haldimand, who sent words of encouragement, prayed for me daily, and continue to do so. As I’m sure everyone in the audience appreciates, it takes a lot of fortitude and determination to put yourself out there in pursuit of election to a municipal office.”
Bentley acknowledged her competitors as well: “Thank you for your dedication to our community, for your willingness to run in the election and undergo the public scrutiny inherent in the process. Please remain involved through some measure of service on another level, be it a committee or another volunteer organization. We need you.”
Next, Bentley turned her attention to her new colleagues, stating, “Congratulations Stewart Patterson on being acclaimed. Congratulations to Rob Shirton, John Metcalfe, and Dan Lawrence on their re-election. Congratulations to Patrick O’Neill, newly elected for Ward 6 and the youngest member of our team. Congratulations to Natalie Stam on being the first woman elected to councillor. It’s quite an honour.”
“The people of Haldimand have spoken, they seek change. Let’s all work together to give people the change they have requested. We need to look forward,” Bentley said to the new Council. “We have a mandate from our constituents as a team to bring their concerns to the table and act on them in a way that benefits the whole community.”
She touched on some of the goals she will focus on over the next four years, explaining, “Moving forward, we will look at our infrastructure, look for better ways to communicate. We need a plan to provide space for future business development, while also planning access to health care, schools, farmland, and green spaces.”
“I am committed to Haldimand County as your mayor. I promise to make our government more inclusive, transparent, open, and accountable to you…. Leadership is a responsibility. It’s not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in your charge,” Bentley added. “As mayor, I am eager to be a strong advocate for our municipality, working with our provincial and federal counterparts, to have positive conversations with our Indigenous communities. By listening, welcoming, and communicating your ideas we can all make Haldimand County a great place to live, work, or play.”
She concluded her address, “Titles or positions don’t make leaders, leadership comes from the heart. A heart for the people, a heart to serve, respect, love, compassion, and empathy for people. A leader is a servant; without people to lead, no one can call themselves a leader…. As your mayor I promise to work for a better future, one that makes sense and includes everyone. Let’s all move forward together.”
See the full swearing in ceremony at haldimandcounty.ca.