As she has done throughout her five months as mayor, indeed her entire 14-years on city council, Joni Baechler spoke about building a better London in comments made at the final meeting of this council term.
Baechler was one of the 11 council members who said their goodbyes to city hall on Nov. 25. The new council will take office on Monday, Dec. 1.
In addressing the members of the incoming council, many sitting in the public gallery, Baechler quoted iconic British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, saying, “We have to shape our city well, thereafter it will shape us.”
It was a not-so-subtle message about the need for council to work together to make the Forest City the best it can be.
“We all want a vibrant, dynamic city, but we don’t want a city that demonstrates the geography of nowhere,” Baechler said. “We want a city that is the calling card to the world, that says this is London, Ont.”
She even had positive words to share about her council colleagues, some of whom she has battled with quite openly over the past four years. “I have not regretted serving with any one of you. What I know, at the deepest point of frustration and anger, I always learned something about myself.”
Ward 1 Councillor Bud Polhill was up first, speaking to his 26 years service on council. Polhill thanked the councillor’s office staff and, seemingly getting a tad choked up, compared council to family members that “sometimes you like them, sometimes you don’t.”
Ward 3 Councillor Joe Swan Swan thanked his constituents and spoke to his "real joy, real pleasure," to serve the community. Swan also took a not-so-veiled shot at those who have labeled this council the worst ever. “History will be kinder than our current experience.”
Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser joined in the appreciation gestures to the council office staff, thanking them for helping him with the “many issues,” during his “eight-year learning experience.”
Orser also offered best wishes well to the new council, Brown, and Jesse Helmer, who will be replacing him in the Ward 4 chair.
In thanking his colleagues for bringing him back, Ward 5 Councillor Russ Monteith — who took Baechler’s old seat when she moved up to mayor — said it was a “great honour” to be back in the council chamber. He added it had been a privilege to represent the public again and he thanked city manager Art Zuidema and his team for “doing a wonderful job for democracy and for London.”
Ward 6 Councillor Nancy Branscombe praised her ward and applauds Phil Squire who will take over her council seat. London is filled with engaged people, Branscombe said, taking a moment to single out Baechler for always being “a class act”
Ward 9 Councilor Dale Henderson listed many of what he considered the council’s past achievements, but also took the moment to announce he was donating the video equipment he had purchased (with great controversy) for his Dale TV endeavour. The equipment will be split between the city’s communication department and the Christian Churches Network.
Showing more humour and personality than perhaps ever, Ward 10 Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen praised council’s tax savings efforts, which he said has London well positioned for the future.
Ward 11 Councillor Denise Brown, showing considerable emotion while speaking, praised her Ward 11 constituents and wished well her replacement, Stephen Turner. Brown, who often found herself between council’s two entrenched sides, said she would not change anything in her time around the horseshoe.
Ward 13 Councillor Judy Bryant focused on the future in her comments, saying in particular the London Plan represents a look at what the future of the Forest City could look like. She also asked thanked City Planner John Fleming for the leadership he showed in creation of the plan.
Bryant also encouraged people to seek out the London Culture Plan as it is one of the documents that will drive the city’s future.
And finally, Ward 14 Councillor Sandy White said she had no regrets about being on council and praised her constituents for their sense of community.