(Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Mayor Darrin Canniff and the new Municipality of Chatham-Kent Council were officially sworn in on Monday night, December 3, during an inauguration ceremony held at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.

“Tonight marks the start of a new era in C-K,” Canniff said during his inaugural address.

“The era of team work and collaboration. One thing I have learned over all the things I have done is the importance of team effort. That no one person can do it. No few individuals can do it. We are here as a team together. That’s how we will accomplish a lot of amazing things.”

Ontario Court Justice Stephen Fuerth conducted the swearing in portion of the ceremony.

“We all share in the joy of this moment,” Fuerth said.

“As citizens of Canada in Chatham-Kent, we value the democratic right to choose those who will represent us from our best for the purposes of the Municipal Government. This is also solemn occasion especially for you that will confirm your commitment to carry out your responsibilities before your community and under oath.”

Fuerth added: “You were chosen to serve as our representatives on Municipal Council. As such we trust you will fairly express our views on issues as they arise. You were also chosen to exercise leadership in the community to serve as our voice in the development of new initiatives and opportunities as they arise.”

Fuerth also thanked the new Council for their service to the community “in this unique role.

“Your duties will be demanding of your time and attention and your families. I commend you for your willingness to make the sacrifices you will be called upon to make over the next four years as our Municipal Government,” he said.

Councillors sworn in on Monday night, include:

– Mark Authier and Melissa Harrigan in Ward 1 – West Kent

– Anthony Ceccacci, Mary Clare Latimer and Trevor Thompson in Ward 2 – South Kent

– Steve Pinsonneault and John Wright in Ward 3 – East Kent

– Joe Faas and Jamie McGrail in Ward 4 – North Kent

– Aaron Hall and Carmen McGregor in Ward 5 – Wallaceburg

– Michael Bondy, Marjorie Crew, Amy Finn, Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, Brock McGregor and Douglas Sulman in Ward 6 – Chatham

Canniff, the first-time mayor who beat out incumbent Randy Hope in the recent October 22 election, reaffirmed his goal of bringing the community together all across Chatham-Kent.

“If you remember nothing else of what I say tonight, remember we live in an amazing community,” Canniff said.

“We can always get better. We will get better. We can get better, but I want that one message resonating with everyone tonight as they walk out that door. The amazing community we live in. I want you thinking that the rest of the night. I want it burning in your mind because when you look around us, what wonderful things we have in this community. There is so many things to be thankful for. So that’s the base we are starting with, which is fantastic.”

Canniff said since being elected he realized being Mayor is his “dream job.”

“I looked at my wife the other night and said ‘Wow what kind of job do you love to get out of bed every morning excited about meetings’. I had 20 meetings that day. Before when I had meetings… I said ‘no way, no way’. Now I am excited. There are so many people out there to meet. So many ideas to grasp a hold of. So I am really thrilled with that.”

Canniff said he wants reach every individual across Chatham-Kent and make them feel a part of the C-K team.

“We are looking to form a team of over 100,000 people,” he said.

“That is going to be everybody in C-K. It is everyone in C-K, they can contribute in some way, shape or form. Us up here, administration, are going to be reaching out to virtually everyone in this community asking for you to become part of this team. We want everything, even if it’s just a little bit. Get out and do some volunteer work that you wouldn’t have otherwise done. Get out and get involved. When everybody gets involved, imagine the wonderful things that we can do together.”

Canniff said he is already reaching out to businesses, volunteers, charities, not-for-profits, service clubs, church groups and sports organization to gather feedback.

“What we are going to start with is listening,” he said.

“We need to listen to each and every one. So the last few weeks I have been going out with Councillors in all the Wards, and we have been asking a simple question… what are your barriers to success? They all have something that stops them from getting to that next level of service, that next level of making the community better.”

Canniff said he anticipates meeting with over 100 groups across the community and summarize the responses they hear.

After reaching out to the community groups, Canniff said he’ll be targeting businesses next.

“We are going to ask that exact same question… what are your barriers?” he said.

“When businesses succeed, Chatham-Kent succeeds. That is extremely important.”

Some other areas of focus Canniff mentioned is economic prosperity, including: jobs, training, business development and attracting and retaining new residents in a skilled labour force; housing; transportation; emergency services; fostering an inclusive community; promoting a strong creative sector, including bringing back the Festival of Nations; and environmental sustainability.

“That is critical to Chatham-Kent and now we have a major shortage of labour in Chatham-Kent and Essex. That is= one of the barriers to business right now. We need to attract work and attract more people.”

Canniff said he has three key goals he’d like to accomplish over the next four year term.

“First and foremost is a very quantifiable thing… I want to see more people living here. We all do. We all want to see us to have to change that population sign up and up and up. What that stands for is people want to live here. No other bench mark is any more solid than that. If the people coming to this community want to live here, we are doing a lot of the right things. So it is one of those easy things to put a barometer on.”

Secondly, Canniff said he wants everyone to feel like a part of the community of Chatham-Kent.

“We have heard that loud and clear going out into the community that ‘wow, we don’t feel part of Chatham-Kent’. So we are going to be doing a lot of things to bring Chatham-Kent together. Looking for ideas on that as well. We need to bring people as one, whether they are Bothwell, Wheatley or anywhere in between. Proud to say Chatham-Kent is their home.”

His third objective is to have people in the community feel proud to live in Chatham-Kent.

“I want the nay sayers that say ‘oh Chatham-Kent is this and this’. I want them changing their tune and saying ‘you know what, we live in a pretty darn good community’. The last piece of it again, it isn’t something you grab a hold of and say here it is, I want people to think more positively about the community. As most of you know I have a background in exploring that and I want to continue to support that. I think there is a lot of power in positive thinking. It doesn’t mean we ignore all the negatives, it means that we just really try to focus more on the positive things in our community.”

Canniff added: “So I want everyone to join us as we roll up our sleeves and strive to make Chatham-Kent an amazing place to live, to work and to play. Together the sky is the limit.

The Mayor and many Chatham-Kent Councillors took to social media following the ceremony:

Here are some photos from the inaugural ceremony, taken by Tami Eagen: