‘We’re here to start a new era’: South Dundas council sworn in

SD&G O.P.P. Const. Ivan Lalonde places the chain of office around the neck of Mayor Steven Byvelds during a ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 in Morrisburg, Ont. Byvelds and the new council were sworn in during an event at the South Dundas Municipal Center. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

MORRISBURG – South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds is ushering in a “new era” for a municipal council “willing to listen” to its electorate.

The council chambers in the South Dundas Municipal Center were full Saturday afternoon as Byvelds, Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner and councillors Archie Mellan, Lloyd Wells and Don Lewis recited the oath of office.

Part of that new era included a twist during the ceremony. Byvelds introduced affidavits for the municipal code of conduct, which has been on the municipal books but only recently become tied to the Ontario Municipal Act. The mayor said he and council were “more than willing to sign the code of conduct today.” The council members each recited a statement and signed it.

“We’re ready to get to work. Ready to face problems head on. Ready to make changes necessary to eliminate problems before they arise in the future,” Byvelds said in his inaugural address.

Byvelds circled back on his campaign promise to listen more and talk less. “I will. Today, I vow to work with council, with staff and with you to move South Dundas forward into a future that will see this municipality’s progress, four years from now, be the envy of our neighbours. Does this set the bar high? It certainly does. But I believe you must dream big to realize what you want to do, setting standards that are great but achievable,” Byvelds explained.

The incoming mayor also appeared to try and mend intercommunity differences, saying that he wants “every corner of South Dundas (to) feel they belong.”

Byvelds was emotional at one point in his speech. His voice cracked as he thanked his family and his wife, Debbie, for supporting him and encouraging him to run again. Byvelds was defeated in 2014 by Evonne Delegarde.

Byvelds also asked for patience from residents in the next few weeks “as we settle in and find our best path forward.”

The deputy mayor and councillors also briefly addressed the audience, which included new mayors Bryan McGillis of South Stormont Jamie MacDonald of North Glengarry.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch following the ceremony, Byvelds says he’s already had “off the cuff” discussions with each member of council “on what they feel is their role” on the new council.

While raring to go, the mayor said he wants to be methodical about decisions made by council.

An inauguration on a Saturday afternoon is atypical for municipal governments. Byvelds said it was his idea in order to “get the ball rolling” and get some business done in December. “It will be a slow roll to start. But then as we go along we have meetings every Tuesday in December lined up so that will keep us busy,” he said.

“There’s issues here. Let’s solve some of the ones we need to solve right away and then get going. We’re all keen to get going.”

South Dundas council will have its first meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 4).

Click on a thumbnail below to see pictures of the swearing in of the council.