Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bidding Adieu to Fred Best as Mayor of Clarenville

I first met Fred Best on my front lawn in during the 1997 Municipal Election campaign.  He was running for Mayor – again - against an up-and-comer municipal politician by the name of Frazer Russell.  Fred had the energy of a wild horse back then as he ambled from house to house meeting the residents with a passion and vigor that a mayor needs.  He’s a consummate politician and someone I admire for his dedication to Clarenville – not just since 1997 but since he entered Council in 1970’s.  He has been in those chambers ever since, 36 years serving as Mayor of Clarenville. 

It’s thanks to Fred that I ran for Council in 1995.  His call of encouragement was the push I needed to stand for election.      I know from my one term that it is is a great experience and privilege to serve but it is a never ending and sometimes thankless job where, as a general rule, you don’t make a lot of friends, you pee some people off, and all topics of conversation that you get involved in eventually turn to municipal politics and the problems of our community.  I asked him once how he dealt with this.  He told me something to the effect “don’t take it too seriously; you need to develop a thick skin”.   My skin did get thicker but the job of councillor does wear on you, and for someone to dedicate over 40 years to it as councillor and mayor, I feel is either a testament to his commitment or a measure of the thickness of his skin – I think Fred has both.

Fred has given so much of his life to this Town and he has contributed so much to Municipal government in this province. He's also bares a lot of credit for my interest in this Town - and this site!   I salute Fred and his family for that.        

It's Time to Pass the Torch

I would argue that the future belongs to the next generation and it is the current generation’s job to ensure that it that future is well taken care of for that next generation.  Part of the job of  a parent, a senior, or a long serving board/council member is ongoing mentoring and then letting go in a timely fashion.  The combination of common sense, passion, energy and a thick skin are all critical attributes to mentor to the next generation of politicians and Fred's success demonstrated these - once.  

Unfortunately, this past council term and a half, I felt that the Mayor had lost his passion for the job – and you need passion for that job.  This feeling was confirmed last week during an interview the mayor did with the CBC Central Morning show. He stated “It’s a decision (Retirement) that I have been thinking about for the last 5 or 6 years, in fact I had to change my mind 4 years ago because I had planned to retire then”   (Listen Here).   Lisa Browne was the kink in his retirement plans and it was sad to see her capabilities, her youth, her progressive ideas and progressive approach stymied, first on Council and then in a very bitter (and close) mayoral race. Evidently, Fred did not want the job of Mayor anymore in 2009, he ran because he did NOT want Lisa to have it.   

The long-time mayor stayed for the wrong reasons, and even though Clarenville has continued to grow at a rapid pace in the past 4 years, the lack of crisp leadership at the top to actively manage and influence that growth is really showing now more than ever – with some comparing this place to a giant gravel pit construction site.

It is no question that when Mayor Best moves into retirement in October he will leave a legacy.  But having stayed in the position as a 'reluctant' mayor at such a critical time in the town’s life with the ramp up of Hebron and the housing and retail developments that have come with it, has not been the best for this town.  Recognizing when to let go is critical - that would have made for a stronger legacy.   

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