by Cecilia Naismith
Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier announced at Monday's council meeting that he will not run for re-election this fall.
Brocanier said he has enjoyed his eight years as mayor, but it came down to whether he could make another four-year commitment. Had he decided to seek another term, he said, it would have been more a case of doing what so many supporters had urged him to do instead of what he personally wanted.
“I am quite honestly flattered by the people who approached me to run again,” Brocanier said.
“I have been very fortunate to have strong councils to work with and great staff who have always been available and informative when I needed it.”
Brocanier said he informed a few key people prior to the council meeting, including the Cobourg Police Service chief and deputy chief, the president and chief executive officer of Lakefront Utility Services, Civic Awards committee head Karen Chalovich and Cobourg chief administrative officer Stephen Peacock.
“As much as it is difficult for me to leave 21 years of municipal politics, I feel I am leaving on a high. I feel I am leaving many accomplishments,” he said.
First elected to council in 1985, he played a key role in making an industrial waterfront the envy of many Ontario communities.
“I am very, very proud to be part of that, and we took a great approach in terms of a secondary plan to be sure we didn't cover the waterfront in six- and seven-storey buildings. We had many public meetings and workshops to make sure we kept it special, but there are key points as well along that waterfront where you can see the tower of Victoria Hall.”
Similarly, he recalled the Lucas Point Industrial Park was just unserviced unused land before the council he was part of turned it into Cobourg's first fully serviced industrial park.
Another point of pride is the Cobourg Community Centre, as well as Venture 13.
“I think that is going to be a great project for Cobourg, and a huge economic benefit for many years to come,” he predicted.
Brocanier kept returning to the waterfront, the area that went from coal piles to a new Waterfront User Needs Assessment and Detailed Design Plan that provides a vision more than 20 years into the future.
“I am very, very proud council has taken the responsibility of looking to the future. If we don't plan now, we will be behind everyone else who is trying to copy what we have now,” he declared.
“It has been wonderful and extremely rewarding. I am approached by people at many functions, and even when I walk down King Street, telling me how much they love Cobourg and thanking me for my contributions. I couldn't do it alone, without the rest of counciil and staff. After much serious deliberation, this will be m final year as mayor.”
Councillors offered their own comments, starting with Deputy Mayor John Henderson's recollection of how Brocanier got him started in municipal politics.
It was years ago, Henderson recalled, when he was working in Durham but had a fiancee who wanted him to stay in Cobourg. It was just about that time that Brocanier grabbed his arm and suggested he might be interested in the parks-and-recreation advisory committee.
“That started my journey to where I am today – so I am very grateful and wanted to say, 'Job well done.' You have been a marvellous mayor,” Henderson said.
Brocanier said Henderson's fiancee was, at that time, his son's teacher and that she was the one who asked him if he had any ideas to keep Henderson in town.
Councillor Forrest Rowden announced his retirement several weeks back, after a career that saw him serve several terms in Hamilton Township as well (including a time as mayor). Between the two of them, Rowden estimated, he and Brocanier could boast almost 50 years of public service.
“I have enjoyed working with you the last eight years,” he said.
“I have told you before, I think you are one of the best mayors I have ever worked with, and you deserve a holiday.”
Councillor Debra McCarthy recalled meeting the mayor when she was Downtown Business Improvement Area manager.
“You were just so helpful, and I have found that relationship with you to continue in council,” McCarthy said.
“You could always count on such collegiality as a group, and I believe part of that is your leadership. We have been a collegial group that respect each other, no matter what the outcome, and I thank you for your leadership on that.”