District mayors reflect on pandemic term

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

There are 14 months left until the next municipal elections; current council members in the Rainy River District are wrapping up the final year of the council term.

With a unique term because of the unforeseen pandemic, many were put to the test, having to take on tough decisions, support community initiatives and work on the promises made during their 2018 campaign.

Rainy River Mayor Deborah J. Ewald has been on council for five terms. This is the fourth mayor term for Ewald, adding up to 19 years in municipal politics. Even for someone with almost two decades of serving the municipality, the pandemic provided a new set of challenges for the Town of Rainy River, the district and Canada.

However, Ewald said, they were able to follow public health regulations while also working on the infrastructure and development projects in the town.

“We were able to secure infrastructure funding to do water and sewer revitalization on Second Street in Rainy River,” Ewald said. “That was a significant project that we’ve been working on for a number of years. A lot of good things have happened and we’re getting a new school here and Rainy River. And a lot of good things have happened.”

Another achievement Ewald mentioned is the instalment of new water and sewer lines, which is something they could not do until they had a new lagoon.

Ewald is not the only mayor who spoke of achievements in their municipalities.

First-time Emo Mayor Harold McQuaker said he has, with the help of council, shown good leadership to the municipality.

“We’ve had difficulties, we’ve seen a few hurdles, we’ve worked to improve on them and straighten everything out,” McQuaker said.

“We had a zero tax increase we had last year and we’re striving to have a zero tax this year. We want to bring new homes and new business to our municipality. And to do that, you have to have an affordable tax base in your municipality.”

Moving forward, McQuaker said there will be some new water construction in the community to keep the Emo infrastructure in good shape.

As for the next council term, Ewald said she is most likely not running because she is in need of a break.

“I need some downtime for myself,” Ewald said. “I’ve enjoyed my time on council and I have mixed feelings about not taking part in the next one. But it’s a very rewarding experience if things go right.”

Ewald also added that she advises future mayors and councillors to listen to what people are saying and have a good working relationship between council and the staff that are employed by the town.

Because most people who run for council are ordinary residents, Ewald said, this is not a job, but a learning experience.

“Wanting to see Rainy River grow and prosper should be the main focus of anyone who runs,” Ewald said. “The main thing is you should not have any personal agendas. My agenda has always been to move Rainy River forward and to work for the improvement of the community.”

However, McQuaker said he will rerun for mayor as long as his health allows him to. He added that business experience and work that brings quality to the municipality is what Emo needs.

McQuaker said young adults have good qualities, but lack the experience, adding that business people who have owned or run a business have a better understanding of a council seat.

“A young person does not have the experience,” McQuaker said. “They can run, they can be popular and they can come into a council seat or a mayor’s chair. But it takes a vast amount of knowledge to be able to accept one of those positions and to govern properly. If they confide in an older person, then it will work for them. But if they don’t, it won’t.”

McQuaker said Emo is a fine community and encourages people to move there and explore business opportunities.

“I thank everybody who has supported me and hung in there with me,” McQuaker said. “We’ve seen hurdles and we’ve had to work through a few wrinkles.”