Blind River representatives, Mayor Sally Hagman, Councillor Betty Ann Dunbar and clerk-administrator Kathryn Scott reported to council on what they learned at the recent Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference they attended from Jan. 27 to 29 in Toronto.
The annual conference offers a trade show, keynote speakers on a variety of municipal issues, and an opportunity to meet with key provincial government officials. This year’s ROMA conference attracted 1,200 delegates from more than 400 municipalities.
“For me, I brought back positive outlooks for Blind River’s future,” Scott said in a report to council. “The sessions and the keynotes (speakers) all focused on the importance of change, don’t keep doing things the same way, think outside the box, and work together as a community to make our community succeed.”
“This is particularly important as we move forward with implementing our Strategic and Economic Development Plan,” she added. “We need to move forward with open-minded thinking and not stay in the past.”
Hagman, who attended the conference for the first time, reported that Premier Doug Ford gave an address to delegates along with Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
“I was in awe of the things that happened at this conference,” she said.
“This was an excellent conference,” said Hagman in her council report. “(Coun.) Betty Ann (Dunbar) and (clerk-administrator) Katie (Scott) will be sharing their experiences. As most of you know, it’s hard to put into words all the information that we received. I believe that you will get a lot of information from the websites that I have listed in my report as well as exploring the AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) website. There’s a network out there to explore and some inspiring people who want to help rural communities succeed.”
Hagman referred to a poem by poet Chief Stacy Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation read out at the conference.
It read; “No one knows for sure about the future. But if you feel reluctant to plan something about it, then someone with guts would define it for you. Strong people define themselves; weak people allow others to define them.”
“We’re all trying to define our Blind River and we’ll keep soldiering through,” Hagman told council at its meeting on Feb. 5.
She said she got a lot of information on downtown rejuvenation that she will take during discussion about the town’s downtown business section.
Dunbar also thought her first ROMA conference she has attended, was “an experience.”
“Over the course of the three days, I attended all of the breakout sessions… and came away from each and every one with new insight on the way our town operates and the responsibility we have to the residents of Blind River,” the first-time councillor said. “I certainly gained new respect for how our administrative staff face the challenges of a constantly changing workload.
She thanked council for allowing her to attend as a town representative.