EMBRUN – Russell Council had made it known that they planned on deciding at their regularly scheduled meeting on April 29 on how to fill the seat vacated by Pierre Leroux when he announced his resignation from the position of Mayor on April 9. They had a multitude of options, but Councillor Marc Lalonde got right to the point when he made a motion to nominate fellow Councillor Michael Tarnowski to fill the role.

Councillor Lalonde was the first to speak after acting Mayor Jaimie Laurin asked his colleagues if they were prepared to decide that evening. “Thank you, Mr. Chair,” began Laurin. “I would now be prepared to put a motion on the table that council vote to appoint Councillor Mike Tarnowski to fill the vacant position of Mayor for the remainder of this Council’s term. I expect there’ll be a discussion period. So, I’ll wait for that to add some extra commentary, but right now I’d like to put a motion on the table that we appoint Councillor Mike Tarnowski to fill the vacancy.”

The motion was seconded by Councillor Lisa Deacon.

Both Lalonde and Deacon then spoke of having consulted many residents to assess their feelings, whether they preferred someone appointed or to have a byelection to fill the vacant seat. Both commented that their sense was that the community preferred someone be appointed.

“From what I’ve heard and what I feel expects a new Mayor that comes with a proven record an attitude of service to our community. And if I can go another step with that, to me, that means it’s not always the loudest person in the room is someone who’s always willing to listen,” said Councillor Deacon. “This person has a commitment to putting the hours that our residents deserve here in our township, at the Counties, and when approaching other levels of government, representing us. Above all, we expected we need a Mayor who will champion the path that this table established in 2022. And it was a path that was developed with the voices of our community. I want to be clear that councillor Tarnowski and I have not always agreed. And that’s the point. Working here navigating and stewarding this path for our community requires of us debate and disagreement. And the more the better in my opinion.”

Tarnowski then spoke, admitting that he felt he had big shoes to fill. “I’m truly honoured by this nomination insistent I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve our township.

“I, like both of you also had discussions with residents as this question came up, this unexpected question came up for us to deal with and much like your conclusions. I came to the realisation that the momentum that we have here and the work that’s been done here is really where we’re going, and we want to keep that momentum going. Our council received a strong mandate from the residents who voted. Every one of us at this table was elected with more than 50% of the votes cast by the electorate. A clear reflection of their confidence in our vision. The mandate is a testament to the trust placed to us to make decisions and align with the best interest of Russell Township as a whole. By proceeding with this internal appointment, we can uphold the trust and avoid the disruptions of a by election.

“I accept this nomination, should it pass. I also want to acknowledge in doing so, the need to manage this transition responsibly as such I would request counsellor Laurin, if he agrees to of course, to continue his role as acting Mayor until our May 27 meeting. This would provide me with an opportunity to notify my current employer and initiate a real realignment of my professional focus. To focus entirely towards our township.

Councillor Laurin, who had served as acting Mayor since Leroux’s resignation was the last to speak and he admitted his sense of the community’s wishes was different than his colleagues.

“I do want to make one comment,” said Laurin. “I also have spoken to many residents in the community, as I’ve mentioned to each and every one of you as well, and appointment probably would not have been the way I would have voted at this point.  Not to say that Councillor Tarnowski will not do a good job; I think you’ll do a fantastic job in the role, but I think from the position of a representative of the public, that would have been where I would have led to, which would have been a by-election.

“But, I understand that we are in a democracy and if Council decides that Councillor Tarnowski is the best person for this job, I will accept that as part of the process and I’ll work with Councillor Tarnowski and other members of council just like we have and should it pass tonight, then yes, I would be willing to take on the role until the May 27 meeting or between then whatever that date would have been to allow you to get your situation in order.”

With the assistance of the Clerk, all procedural issues were completed, the motion was voted on and Councillor Michael Tarnowski was selected to fill the role of Mayor effective May 27, for the remainder of Council’s term.

When Councillor Tarnowski assumes the role of Mayor on May 27, the same process will then be followed either by appointment or through a byelection to fill what will then be a vacant Councillor position.