Highlands East joins mayor debate

By Sue Tiffin

Published Oct. 10 2017

Highlands East still has a reeve and deputy-reeve but not necessarily for much longer.

At an Oct. 4 council meeting councillors discussed whether or not to change the title of reeve and deputy-reeve to mayor and deputy-mayor. The change would be applied to the titles of Dave Burton and Suzanne Partridge.

The name change was first discussed by county council in 2013 according to a report from Robyn Rogers deputy clerk with councillors supportive of it. Traditionally the heads of council in small rural municipalities are called reeve.

“Those distinctions no longer exist as legislated responsibilities are the same for small and large municipalities” reads Rogers’s report. “The title of reeve is not well known by the public particularly the younger voters.”

“I don’t know whether the public wants to have a mayor and I think we should find that out before we change the name” said Councillor Joan Barton.

“How do you propose to do that?” asked Burton.

Barton said it was essential to get feedback from residents before making the decision and suggested a posting on the municipality’s website as well as possible posters. (The poll can be found at HighlandsEast.ca.)

“People by and large don’t understand what a reeve is” said Partridge. “They wonder if a reeve is someone below a mayor. So to me it just sort of simplifies the title. A lot of young people don’t anymore have a concept of what a reeve is because mayor has become far more commonly used.”

Partridge said she would have no problem changing the name.

Shannon Hunter Highlands East CAO noted that a name change would not result in a change of duties.

“The duties are not any different between a reeve and mayor” she said. “It’s simply unifying the name to the same as everywhere else.”

Councillor Cec Ryall said that he did not have any fixed opinion on whether the title should be changed or not.

“A rose by any other name is still a rose” he said.

He was concerned about the potential cost impact or legislative impact but Hunter said there would be minimal costs involved. The township does not have printed letterhead so a digital change is all that would be needed. There would be minor costs associated with changing the municipality’s website and business cards.

Burton jokingly noted Niagara-on-the-Lake in southern Ontario has a “lord mayor.”

“It doesn’t matter to me either which way…I don’t care” he said. “There’s other alternatives out there we could leave it status quo forever. It’s a bit challenging at times for me.”

He said that when he was at one conference recently a clerk in the office had to look up the definition of a reeve.

In Algonquin Highlands the change was made from reeve to mayor and deputy-reeve to deputy-mayor for Carol Moffatt and Liz Danielsen in July while the same change happened for Brent Devolin and Cheryl Murdoch in Minden last week. The discussion will soon be coming to Dysart et al council.

The decision of whether or not to change the title will be made at the next meeting of Highlands East council on Nov. 1.