Village of Sundridge residents will be voting for a new mayor in this October’s municipal elections as a result of mayor Lyle Hall deciding not to seek a third term in office.
Hall is serving enough notice so that residents can start thinking about his replacement and Hall told The Nugget there is no shortage of good candidates.
“There are good people out there,” Hall said, adding he hopes there are no acclamations to the council.
Hall prefers to see election races because it’s an indicator that people are engaged in the process and have an interest in the eventual town council makeup.
At 65 Hall is still relatively young, so why retire from municipal politics?
Hall has two adult children and four adopted children who are 18, 15 and two eight-year-old twins. He says it’s time to spend more time with his family.
However, there’s another reason Hall says it’s time to step down.
“I remember when I first started on council I was told politicians have a ‘best before’ date,” he said.
“After 10 years they start running out of ideas and they turn more into a drag on council who don’t help it move forward in modern fashion. I don’t want to be that guy.”
True to his word, Hall is stepping down at the 10-year mark.
Hall was appointed to council halfway through the 2010 term when a previous councillor moved away from the area, creating an empty seat on council.
Hall recalls that seven people including himself expressed an interest to fill the vacant seat.
The conditions for Hall were just right.
He had just retired from the Honda of Canada Manufacturing plant in Alliston and moved back to his hometown of Sundridge with his family.
At Honda, Hall was involved in process control and Hall says process has always been an interest to him, especially how it applies at government levels.
Hall didn’t run in the 2010 election, but he regularly attended council meetings to keep himself informed as a taxpayer what decisions the council of the day was making.
“So when the opening came up it was excellent because I had all the information and had been taking notes at the meetings,” Hall said.
Hall has a pragmatic approach when the council has to make decisions.
“You do things once and you do it right,” he said.
“And if you do it right, you only have to do it once.”
In 2014 Hall ran against two other people for the mayoralty and won easily with 90 per cent of the vote. A major project at the time was increasing the size of the local lagoon so the village had sewer capacity to accommodate 300 to 400 more residents.
Hall says that hasn’t happened yet but the infrastructure is there to accommodate growth.
Another move forward under Hall’s tenure was creating an asset management plan.
Hall says prior to the plan’s creation infrastructure only got fixed when “it became catastrophic.”
“So if it wasn’t too broken, we didn’t fix it.” Hall said.
But once the asset management plan was in place, repair or maintenance work was carried out in a regular fashion.
Hall was ready to retire in 2018 because he said with “the asset management plan in place, it was a turnkey operation and anyone coming in could do it.
“But there was a groundswell of support from people phoning me, talking to me and coming to my home suggesting I run again,” Hall said.
Hall acknowledged there was still plenty of work the town hall had to carry out, like creating an official plan that he says should have been put in place in 2007.
“And there were a lot of road projects,” Hall said.
Hall says during his two terms as mayor about two-thirds of the village’s roads have either been parged or replaced.
The municipality also undertook significant storm-water drain projects on two streets that prior to the work were subject to regular washouts and resulted in leaky basements for some homeowners.
Hall says this summer “the entire town will get fibre internet.
“I don’t believe there are too many Northern Ontario towns that have 100 per cent fibre internet availability,” he said. The municipality also has a new website in place where residents can pay their municipal bills electronically.
“So we finally stepped into the present after years of tardiness,” Hall said.
“This isn’t something that’s special, but rather it’s expected.”
Hall says the municipality has also succeeded in retaining staff after years of high turnover.
Hall says some of the departures “occurred under his watch.”
“The departures were disconcerting because it’s something that’s high profile to the public,” Hall said.
“So we began efforts to keep our staff and we did. We went four years and only lost one part-time person. Our core people have remained the same, have become more experienced and can carry this place for years and years.”
As Hall prepares to oversee Sundridge council for only a few more months, he said he won’t be leaving behind any legacy projects bearing his name.
“I don’t need a legacy project,” he says.
However, although there are many endeavours the council undertook, one will stand out above others for Hall and it involves healthcare.
Late last year Sundridge council began a major lobby for more students to be enrolled at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in order to ease the doctor shortage in the North.
“We made a motion for the school to add more students, we had lots of support from many municipalities in Ontario and we got the extra medical seats,” Hall said.
The outgoing mayor says that’s something Sundridge residents can be proud about.
One project that Hall won’t see completed is the amalgamation between Sundridge, the Township of Strong and the Township of Joly.
“It’s been the structure, style and process that we’ve been having arguments about,” he said.
Despite the present delays, Hall is a strong believer that all three municipalities will merge.
Hall also notes that people who were in municipal politics faced something no other town councils ever faced in several lifetimes and that was navigating through COVID.
“It was a crappy time to be in politics and trying to coordinate everything coming from the provincial government,” he said.
“People were not happy about being directed in their everyday lives. But now we’re coming out of it and there’s a rush of summer celebrations.”
Hall admits he’ll miss not being involved with municipal politics.
But he quickly adds that will only be for a short while because he will easily fill that void with more family time and volunteering with groups and organizations.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget