North Dundas Coun. John Thompson (left) and Deputy Mayor Al Armstrong (right) were put to work cutting the cake at a retirement celebration held for them on Nov. 4 at the Morewood Community Centre. Tinkess Photo
When the newly elected or acclaimed members of the Township of North Dundas municipal government are sworn in, they will be doing so minus a combined total of nearly forty years of service, shared between two retiring members of council.
Deputy Mayor Al Armstrong, who served the township from 2000-2022 and Coun. John Thompson, who served from 2006-2022 were both recognized for their service on Fri., Nov. 4 at a get-together with nearly 100 of their family, friends, and colleagues at the Morewood Community Centre.
The evening, which featured a Greek buffet catered by Louis’ Restaurant, was kicked off with comments from newly acclaimed Mayor Tony Fraser.
“Their attitude has always been, how do we make things better, how do we serve the public. Their thoughts have been genuine and honest,” said Fraser.
“The beauty of it all is the embracing of John and the embracing of Al by all of us, by the community, by the electorate, the constituents to become a vital part of “us” and for that I am truly, truly grateful.”
Two questions were posed to both Armstrong and Thompson, and their response was very much to the point. The questions: What got you interested in becoming involved in municipal politics, and what do you take away from your years of service?
For Armstrong, it was the pursuit of equitable treatment for minor hockey. “I was the vice-president of minor hockey at that time,” said Armstrong, “and the sitting council at the time had forgiven an ice bill, and we thought at minor hockey that we should go in and talk to them to see if we could get the same thing, because we had money issues. There are always money issues.
“It wasn’t an animosity thing and I said I’d go, so I went in and it was the first council meeting I had ever been to. I said my piece, with no disrespect to any of them and nothing really happened. On my way out I saw Howard Smith and I asked, “How do you get to sit at this table?” and he said you run for election. It was right at that time you had to get your election papers prepared. I didn’t even know that was going on. I asked, ‘how do you go about that,’ he told me how and four weeks later I was on council. I wasn’t really drawn to politics. My family was fairly political, but it wasn’t a plan.”
In response to the question of what the most important thing he takes away from his time on council, Armstrong offered some practical advice: “The biggest thing, in my mind after 23 years is that it is the most important level of government that the average person should pay attention to. When Eric Duncan raises his hand in the House of Commons, and they pass something, it can be years before you feel the impact. When I raise my hand on a Tuesday night, I spend your money by Thursday. That’s the biggest take-away in my opinion.”
Like Armstrong, Thompson was also very involved in the community as a volunteer. “When I first started in 16 years ago, I was on the fire department,” said Thompson. “I was involved with Chesterville Recreation and the new sports field and ball diamond and soccer field that went in and being involved in them got me more interested in just becoming more involved in the community.”
As for what he takes away from his time on council, Thompson says it is all about building relationships. “I think we’ve accomplished a lot with the growth in the town that we have experienced,” said Thompson, “and the upgrading of the facilities, and connections that we have made through the municipality, different people I have met and through connections with the other municipalities we’ve had through council.”
The retirement of Armstrong and Thompson leave a couple large pairs of shoes to fill, and the process will begin with the swearing in of the new council on Nov. 15 at 7:00 p.m., at the municipal office located at 636 St. Lawrence St. in Winchester.
Terry Tinkess is a professional photographer, educator and journalist. He has been making a living with a camera and keyboard since 1999 and has been featured in such publications as The Ottawa Citizen, Cornwall Standard Freeholder, The Globe and Mail, The Miami Herald, Ottawa Construction News, The Ontario Construction Report, Ontario Home Builder Magazine, Reed Construction Data, Canadian Potato Business and most recently, The Record and Eastern Ontario AgriNews. Terry lives in Ingleside, Ontario with his wife Brenda, Mia the anxious Pittie and cats Wally and Chubbers.