When the new town council is sworn in this November, June Caul will continue to serve the community – just not on council. Fort Frances’s first female mayor announced last week she would not run in the upcoming election, but in an interview with the Times, said she will continue to help her community by volunteering in a variety of roles.
When Caul was 12, she joined 4-H. She said the motto she learned there has stuck with her her whole life. She recited it from memory:
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living for my club, my community, and my country.”
Caul said she always tries to base her decisions on that motto. She said her favourite part of being mayor has been being involved in the community.
“I love being able to do things that help people out, to make a brighter day for somebody,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘no’ to any invitation to any kind of community event.”
And when she is invited, Caul said she will roll up her sleeves.
“Just because I’m the mayor doesn’t mean I sit there and don’t help,” said Caul. “That’s just me — I like to be involved that way rather than just doing a speech and then saying ‘well thanks, I’m going to leave now’ … I stick around and stay tuned with whatever’s happening.”
Because Caul loves Fort Frances so much, she said she had to put a lot of thought into her decision to retire as mayor.
“There’s so many things going on, so many things you’ve got your hand in, so many different possibilities for the future of the town … it’s hard to step away,” she said.
Caul said she had been contemplating this move ever since nominations opened in early May, and only really made the decision to step down last week.
“It’s a relief since I’ve made the announcement,” she said.
Referencing her report in last week’s council meeting, Caul said that physically and mentally, she can’t continue in her role as mayor.
“There’s a time when you just know you need to take a step back and make sure you’re looking after yourself more than anybody else,” she said. “So that’s what I thought I’d better do.”
With flooding this year, wildfires last year, and the pandemic for both, Mayor Caul has encountered her fair share of challenges.
“You start to sit down and wonder what could come next,” she said.
Using the people around you is key to keeping issues at bay, Caul said.
“To me, our administration at the town … they’re second to none,” she said. “I’m so blessed to have had the people around me helping me make decisions.”
Caul said she leads with her heart in everything she does, but it’s been difficult when met with people who can be cruel to her.
“It’s important to me that people always consider other’s feelings,” she said. “I’ve had people attack because there’s something that they don’t like happening.”
She said she’s encountered a lot of people lashing out and being cruel through various emails or phone calls, especially in the last four years.
“That’s been hard on me,” she said. “That’s the biggest scar that’s been left on me — the way I’ve been treated by some people.”
Caul said the harsh comments aren’t new — they’ve been going on her whole time as mayor.
“I’d say the last two years have probably been the hardest I’ve ever had in my life with stuff that’s gone on,” she said. “I felt attacked a lot of times in certain ways, and that’s really difficult to live with every day of your life. I’ve struggled with getting past that dark area in my life at times. You really have to buckle down and try not to take it so seriously that it brings you down.”
But Caul’s love for the community has kept her going.
“This town means a lot to me,” she said.
For her eight years of service, both as a councillor and as mayor, Caul said she needed no wage.
“You really don’t get paid a whole lot,” Caul said. “But these two terms, I would have done them for no money at all.”
When she ran for council in 2014, Caul said she thought of it as a volunteer role, and didn’t expect to get paid.
“To me, being on council is — I’m volunteering my time to try to make the community better,” she said. “That’s what you do if you truly love your community.”
Caul said she was thrilled when she was elected councillor since she got the most votes.
“It made me feel good because when you’re starting into something like that, you don’t know whether the public’s going to think you’re worthwhile in the seat or not,” she said. “So I felt really proud to know that people in the community felt that I would have their back and do a good job.”
Now that she’s moving on, Caul knows that whoever fills her role needs to love Fort Frances.
“There’s so many other people out there who would do the job really well,” said Caul. “I hope it’s somebody who’s as passionate as I am about this town; because one thing that I will never sway from is how important this community has always been to me.”
Caul said though the role of mayor isn’t a full-time job as it is in bigger cities, you must still be committed to responding to emails and phone calls all the time.
“Everybody wants your opinion, everybody wants you to help them in some way,” she said. “It’s so important that you’re there for every community member.”
She said it’s important to have good relationships with all town administration.
“I believe a team means everybody,” she said. “You need to be able to work with other people, and to listen to other ideas. You need to stand together as a team and move forward.”
She warned anyone with ulterior motives to avoid running for municipal office.
“If anybody’s thinking of going into this position or as a councillor because you want to see things done for yourself, then you’re not running for the right reasons and you shouldn’t run,” Caul said. “You have to be there with no hidden personal agenda; you have to be there to support the community as a whole.”
To conclude her interview, Mayor Caul voiced her appreciation for the town.
“I thank the community from the bottom of my heart for the support I’ve received. I really feel that I’ve been embraced, and that’s the best feeling I could ever have,” she said. “I also want to wish the councillors that I worked with this term and last term all the best, always, and good luck to whoever is coming into the next term.”
Ontario municipal elections are set to take place on Monday, October 24. As of publication time, no one has announced an intention to run as Caul’s replacement. Apart from mayor, Fort Frances will elect six councillors to office this fall.
So far, the town website shows Kaleb Firth, owner of Northern Sky Solutions is the only person who has filed a nomination to run for council. The nomination deadline is August 19.