Complete transcript of Mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman’s inaugural address – Dec. 6, 2010


Tonight begins a revolution. Together, we, as a community will begin
the hard work of embarking on a path toward economic renewal and
community revitalization. Together, we will pave the way to the future
for St. Thomas.

Imagine: anticipating possibilities, creating a vision and a direction,
assessing alternatives, scanning terrain and mapping our route ahead.
It is not about predicting the future, it is about mapping a course and
building the road for getting from here to there. The process will
require many skills and there will be room for many voices to be
heard: Members of Council, City employees, community volunteers,
students, Members of the business community and the social sector
agencies.

It is important everyone has the opportunity to contribute.
Our strategic planning process will take into consideration reports that
have already been created through things such as the Community
Improvement Plan and the new official plan as well as the hard work
already being undertaken by the Economic Development Corporation.
We need to start with a vision statement and put the pieces of the
road map together.

You may be wondering: how can I contribute? What can I do? How do
I participate? There will be many opportunities. We are committed to
engaging in community dialogue and you will recognize your call…
and … We are listening.

There is hard work and difficult decisions ahead. Plant closures and
manufacturing job losses are not over. In September the Ford
Assembly Plant closes its doors. What have we learned? Despite
early signs of economic recovery…. we will not rely on recovery in one
industry or sector to fuel our future sustainability. Instead we will
power economic prosperity by building on our strengths and
capabilities and increase our competitive advantage in regional
partnership with our neighbouring municipalities and counties.
Together, we will create business and employment opportunities and
compete for local and global markets.

We will not simply compete to import jobs. We will, compete to build better, faster and stronger and
produce products second to none. Our Economic Development
Corporation, EDC, will lead this charge. Their dynamic and engaging
marketing program, unveiled on December 1st, will be their spear in
hand with which they work to attract new employment opportunities for
our community.

Small business is a driving force in our region’s economic renewal. It
will not be ignored. The partnership that we have formed with the
Elgin Business Resource Centre and the County of Elgin to create the
Small Business Enterprise Centre is a success. The next venture in
this partnership is the Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurs, or ICE.
ICE will provide business incubation programs that will nurture the
growth of new and emerging business in St. Thomas and Elgin
County. ICE will provide assistance with the business development
process and provide flexible space for small start-up companies to put
their business capital to good use in starting their company. ICE will
provide the opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop their business
and enable them to successfully move on to a permanent location and
grow their business. I look forward with excitement to the opening of
this business incubator centre scheduled for April 2011.

The work of building bridges and partnerships, filling in potholes and
paving the way to the future with our neighbours has begun. On
October 26th-the morning after the election, I received a call from our
MP Joe Preston. Joe was organizing a dinner for all of the new
Mayors from all 8 municipalities across the County. The purpose was
to get to know each other and share a meal. It was great! Thank you
Joe for this opportunity. I look forward to meeting with the Mayors
from across the County on a regular basis to continue the dialogue
that has been started and to work together.

As a Council, we will immediately deal with the issue of whether or not
to re-instate the position of Chief Administrative Officer. This was a
campaign issue and will be presented as a notice of motion on our 1st
business agenda on December 13th. A CAO will act as the primary
liaison between the Staff and Council, ensuring that Council’s
directives are properly implemented between the various
departments as well as providing support to Council in our policy,
planning, budgeting, and economic development functions.
I will be presenting a proposal to Council in the new year to change
the format of our meeting schedules. This has been an evolving
process as I speak to members of council and staff about the
possibilities to provide an opportunity for a council meeting each
month dedicated solely to deputations, public meetings and
information from various departments. This will allow for open
dialogue around issues without the pressure of having to make an
immediate decision. The goal is to simply reduce the number of items
that are deferred by Council because we need more information to
make a decision in the best interests of the community.

I look forward to holding town hall meetings to talk to the public on a
regular basis. These meetings will allow members of council to
update the community on different projects and to listen to the
concerns of the community.

Our heritage tells us where we have come from. It shapes our future.
We need to enact a minimum maintenance property standards by-law
that will protect our heritage properties. Heritage properties are
treasures in our community and need to be protected! The Provincial
government has given us the tools to enact by-laws to enforce
minimum maintenance standards on all heritage properties and it is
time to put our by-law in place. Along with a minimum maintenance
property standards by-law for heritage properties, we need to be
enforcing property standards for vacant properties. We should be
seeking support from other municipalities and Business Improvement
Areas and lobbying the Provincial government to end the practice of
vacant property rebates. There is absolutely no good reason to give a
tax rebate to a property owner that does not try to actively fill their
properties. We are rewarding the bad behaviour of absentee
landlords-most of whom do not live in our community and do not care
that their property is vacant and is most cases, derelict.

Tonight we are an assembly of recently elected officials; veterans and
novices, in whom you have vested your trust. We have a choice: to
serve you as politicians or statesmen. The difference between a
politician and a statesman is simple: A Politician is thinking only about
the next election while a Statesman is thinking about the next
generation. Ladies and gentlemen, I commit to you and on behalf of
this elected assembly we will work as a council of statesmen.
Lastly, I have a number of people to thank. To that end, you know
who you are and to you I say: Thank you.

For those of you who thought I was just the girl that wanted to wear
the sash and cut the ribbon, watch close, you’ll be amazed at what I
can do in the right pair of shoes!

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