Emo to see new faces on council

Duane Hicks

With the exception of incumbent Gary Judson, Emo council has been infused with new blood after Monday’s municipal election.
Challenger Vincent Sheppard was elected mayor, garnering 309 votes to defeat incumbent Ed Carlson (222).
In an interview yesterday, Sheppard said he’s looking forward to working with council and listening to the people of Emo to steer the course of the municipality’s future.
“It makes me feel good,” he remarked. “I’ve wanted change for a long time here and now we’ve got it.
“Right now, I will be just getting in and learning, but I want to work with the new council as a team and toss ideas around,” Sheppard added.
One priority is for Emo to get rid of its independent meeting investigator, and go back to having the Ontario ombudsman look into matters if the public has a complaint about its council.
“For transparency, we should have nothing to hide,” Sheppard stressed.
“And it shouldn’t cost $500 for the people of Emo to put in a complaint,” he reasoned.
Sheppard was referring to when the provincial ombudsman and Emo council butted heads in March, 2009 following a report detailing an investigation into a meeting held in spring of 2008 to discuss matters related to the abattoir project.
After that report, Emo council decided to hire its own meeting investigator, whom the public has to go through to file complaints, as opposed to the ombudsman’s office.
“Me, as a citizen, I thought, ‘What a slap in the face that is,’” said Sheppard. “The Ontario ombudsman is free and that’s what he is there for.
“All of the people can give him a call anytime and he will look at [their complaint] as a valid complaint.
“I know Fort Frances has its own ombudsman, as do Kenora and Dryden, and I don’t know why,” Sheppard added.
“It’s an open government, open it. What are you hiding?”
Sheppard said he also wants to revisit and revise Emo’s official plan.
“It’s supposed to be opened every five years and it hasn’t been yet,” he argued.
“It was introduced in 1996, I think it was,” he noted, adding council must “look at the future of Emo, where we want to go.”
“And I am looking for ideas from the people of Emo, what we should be doing,” Sheppard added.
“I know there’s a lot of infrastructure that needs fixing in town, things like that.
“I think we’re going to have to sit together as a group and weed through it, and see what direction we’re going to go, prioritize,” he remarked.
Sheppard will be joined on Emo council by newcomers Robert Simmons (305 votes), Vernon Thompson (304), and Anthony Leek (299), along with incumbent Gary Judson (273).
He noted the group represents a fresh start, with Judson providing some necessary experience to the mix.
“I think it will be better, and it’s good to have Gary in there because he’s been in there, and I know Gary fairly well, and I think we can work together quite well,” said Sheppard.
“It’s going to be different,” he admitted. “A lot of times things stagnate, the same people are in there with the same ideas.
“Now, with younger people, we’re going to get fresh ideas.
“I think it will be better.”
Sheppard said it’s hard to say what the next four years will hold, but he does feel “the people are going to help decide where Emo goes.”
“I want an open government. I want to be fair, and I want their input,” he stressed.
“Even if it’s criticism, I want that input, and we can look at it and find out, well, is it good criticism, yes or no, and offer why it is or why it isn’t.
“I think most municipal governments are for the people, or they should be anyway,” Sheppard added.
“I am not going to be telling people what they should be doing,” he pledged. “They should be bringing things to us and we’ll look at it that way.”