By Darren Lum
It’s time for a change.
After 16 years, Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts is ready for a new chapter that doesn’t involve political service.
Roberts has decided to not run in the upcoming municipal election. She said serving the community the past 16 years has been fulfilling, but it was time to step away and was part of her plan.
“It really just concludes exactly what my personal political goal that I set out to do. The hardship has been that it gets into your skin in positive ways too. Not just the stress and negative ways. There is so much about it that I still love. But, yet, personally, I’m just not ready to commit four more years of pretty close to full time work,” she said.
Her decision was made while on holiday with her husband recently.
“I just had this moment. [I told myself], you know, you’re not quitting. You’re doing what you set out to do. I’m really, really proud of the 16 years that I will have put in when this term is finished,” she said. “I’m sure good people will come along. That’s part of my concern,” she said.
She adds there will be turnover with the current council, which will include a few representatives who won’t run again.
“It’s going to be a big change, but I can’t run out of guilt either,” she said.
Roberts is confident there will be capable leaders, who will step forward and help to lead the community in her place. She will be contributing to the community in other ways she said. What that will be exactly, she wasn’t sure at this point.
Although the pandemic was a factor, it wasn’t a major contributor to this decision. Much of the challenge with the pandemic occurred early on, with questions about masking and whether or not seasonal residents should come to their cottage during the May long weekend she said.
“But overall, you know, the last little while has not been stressful. I got used to doing the job [the new way]. It’s going to be a change when we go back. Plans to go back for the May committee of the whole meeting to be in-person for councillors and the clerk and we will then have all the other staff members Zoom-in and, if there’s any delegation or anybody in the public, they’ll be Zoomed-in and plus it will be live-streamed by YouTube, so people can still watch it,” she said.
Time was a concern for Roberts. Rather than the grind of a political campaign, she has other plans.
“The timing is right. I want to be camping this summer and not campaigning,” she said.
She adds the campaign effort is long, with it starting in May and ending in October.
“Yeah, there’ll be something else down the road, but I’m not going to jump into anything. I’m just going to take a nice pause like most people do when they’re retired and then that thing will find me perhaps,” she said.
After close to 35 years living here, Roberts is proud to call Dysart her home and appreciated the opportunity to serve.
“This is my home. So, I think I”m just most proud of that I had the opportunity to serve my community in this way. It really isn’t any one event or thing. There’s lot and lots over the whole overall 16 years,” she said.
She later remembered the Dysart 150 celebration, the fundraising for the skate park and the library.
One regret she has is not running for mayor in 2014, which was when she ran as deputy mayor.
She would have liked to have been mayor for two terms of eight years. Roberts said she didn’t have the confidence to run to be the mayor with her political experience only being as Ward 1 councillor.
The experience of running the municipality has been life changing.
“The whole thing has been a growing experience. I changed as a person because of this job. It made me more confident and given me opportunities that I never thought that I would have,” she said.
Roberts can still remember hammering in her first political campaign sign where the Gardens of Haliburton is now located in her bid to run for ward one councillor.
“It was a big learning curve for me in the beginning, but I thrived on it and just really, really enjoyed my time,” she said.
She remembers how her friends were unaware of her political aspirations until her signs were around town. She acknowledges her intention for the election is clear, but will be working hard to complete her term. Among the work includes the Fleming College student residence project, and the completion of the strategic plan.
Roberts life could be a Hollywood movie.
From how she moved here with her first husband, becoming pregnant at 26 to the ending of her marriage, which left her to become a single mother with a four-month-old baby, working at what was then a recently opened McKecks as its manager, to eventually become the mayor of the town. She said her triumphs weren’t without help along the way, whether it was from how Curry Motors gave her a “really good deal and she didn’t need much down” to buy her first car to replace her broken down 12 year old “clunker,” to how her new employer Walt McKechnie vouched for her in securing housing across the road from the restaurant.
The trip down memory lane for her leaves her a little choked up, acknowledging the journey she has taken and what she has achieved. If she could have a moment to share with that younger Roberts, challenged by life and circumstance, she would encourage her to keep going.
“What do I tell that person? That it’s going to be okay. You can do anything you want. And you are smart enough. That you’re good enough and capable,” she said. “You know, I’ve always put people first, whether I was managing a restaurant and with Robert Austin fuels and our customers and our other staff, and I’ve been able to do that in this role, whether it be with municipal staff or ratepayers, or my fellow councillors and colleagues. I love that part of it. So, I’d tell her don’t worry. It’s going to work out. A happy ending,” she said.