Former council members honoured for years of service

By Robin McCormick
West End Correspondent

Two deserving men, Ken McKinnon and Jim Belluz were presented with commemorative plaques last Thursday, Nov. 17 at the annual Appreciation Dinner held at the Devlin Hall.

Lucille MacDonald, the newly elected Reeve, started the presentation by giving a brief summary of the last four years, the lows and the highs that the previous council have had to deal with. She spoke highly of their achievements of keeping things going during situations unfamiliar to most, Covid being a big one.

She ended her talk by calling up outgoing Reeve Ken McKinnon and outgoing council member Jim Belluz. Unknown to these two fine gentlemen, they were to be presented with a plaque as a thank you for their years of service on the LaVallee council.

Ken was elected to council in 1992, then as Reeve in 1995. He was again elected in 2014 and 2018, for a total of 19 years of dedicated service to the Municipality of LaVallee

Jim has served from 1983 to 1994, then again from 2001 to 2013 and 2018 to 2022 for a total of 27 years.

Both were active in various boards and committees during this time.

The recently elected council and all people attending the awards night and this dedication certainly saw it as a meaningful and well deserved evening.

On behalf of all residence of the LaVallee township and people near and far thanks and congratulations to you both.

Both men took time to share a few words with me, regarding their time on council.

Ken was employed with MTO for many years. In later years he was a Municipal Organizer, working with Municipalities throughout the area. This connected him with the Ministry, clerks and road superintendents. This involved replacing culverts and bridges throughout the district.

As Ken considered running for council, he talked it over with his dad, Cameron. His Dad said, “Go for it.” Cameron himself had been on Council and had served as Reeve. Ken was a natural fit for Council with his many years of road experience.

Ken McKinnon (left) and Jim Belluz accepting awards for their long time dedication to the LaVallee municipality. – Robin McCormick photo

Ken shared his favourite part of being on council was dealing with people one on one. “What’s more fun than people?” he said. He has enjoyed seeing accomplishments that happen in our municipality.

He said he’s learned to listen to people – really listen. Don’t make decisions until you’ve heard from both sides, he said, quoting Paul Harvey: “now for the rest of the story.”

Ken talked about the importance of volunteering. He mentioned how fortunate our community is to have the Volunteer Fire Department. Lately it’s been a struggle to attract volunteers, but he’s hoping that will change.

Ken is now 87 years old, and his wife Marilyn has been in the hospital for quite some time. Visiting and trying to do the best for her takes time that he gladly gives. Ken shared, “I’ve done my due diligence.”

He feels confident with the new council and sees great things for them.

Ken believes whole heartily that the LaVallee township is a great place to live. As he says, “I’m no travelling man.” He’s only moved a quarter of a mile in his life, from the farm he grew up on to where he lives today.

Enjoy the next chapter Ken, and always know you’ve made a difference in our Township!

Jim also shared his thoughts on his 27 years of service to the LaVallee Council. “I’ve met so many great people,” he said, including former Reeves Angus Hyatt and Bubs Hughes. He appreciated that they were willing to take him under their wings and teach him what he needed to know.

He couldn’t say enough about our Townships as he reminisced about Fritz Bujold and all the dedication he had for the Devlin Hall, which is still a very functional hall today. That couldn’t of happened without Fritz and the many people who have continued to keep the hall going.

Jim really made me feel how fortunate we have a ball diamond, which has been well-used for years. Last year youth baseball was enjoyed by many kids from the area and outside our Township. Youth baseball organizer Roseanne Farmer actually had to turn kids away, because they were filled to the limit. That’s something that wouldn’t happen without volunteers over many years of commitment.

He gave thanks to Joe Bodnar, Gary Esselink, Howard Teeple and the many people who maintained the public outdoor rink over the years. Jim also spoke highly of the Fire Department and the commitment people have made to that cause. It was in the late 70’s or early 80’s that Fritz Bujold and Donny Smith spearheaded getting a fire department for our area, and many others joined in.

Jim’s learned a lot about policies, procedures and the goings on of Municipal Council.

“But the question that one should ask themselves is, ‘How can I help out?’ This is much more effective than complaining,” shared Jim.

Jim feels the amount of good people he has met throughout the entire district is phenomenal and that spreads throughout Northwestern Ontario and beyond, as Council would travel to conferences near and far.

He would like to thank all the support he has received over his 27 years, all the people that shared stories and came to him with concern, voted for him during election time.

Jim will remain on the board of the Rainy River Future Development Corporation (RRFDC) and other boards if there is a need.

He leaves this part of his life with a feelings of “It’s time to move on.” He was happy to see others put their names in for councillors and reeves. Jim feels when a council gets in by acclamation, “it’s not a good thing.”

It was a pleasure to have a chat with Jim and to feel his pride and joy of being a LaVallee resident, and thank you Jim for your time given to make us all happy to be LaVallee residents.