A nearly full crowd at the London Convention Centre welcomed the 15 members of the 2018-2022 city council.
Mayor Ed Holder began his address by establishing the sentiment that has been echoed by many councillors leading up to this day. That is, that the freshly appointed council comes with “diverse perspective on the way to move London forward,” he said. “What we all have in common is a commitment to serve,” Holder added.
A diverse perspective
The new council includes a mixed group of people of different ages, backgrounds, and political views. The six new councilors alone perfectly exemplify
the wide range of perspectives on council this term.
On the one hand, there are conservatives such as Steve Hillier, Paul Van Meerbergen, and Steve Lehman. While on the other side of the spectrum, there is Arielle Kayabaga, Shawn Lewis, and Elizabeth Peloza. Perhaps some of the most interesting changes brought to council will be seen by two of these new faces. Coun. Kayabaga, 28, is the first black female councillor to serve the city, while Coun. Lewis is London’s first openly gay councillor.
Returning Coun. Phil Squire says having such a diverse council is a good thing. “It means progress for Londoners…Any time you get different voices and come to a resolution that is a bit of a compromise, I think, is a good thing,” he added.
Bridging the political divide
An important part of the inaugural meeting is appointing a deputy mayor. Mayor Ed Holder selected Coun. Jesse Helmer. The move comes as a surprise to many considering Helmer tends to lean left, while Mayor Holder has a conservative background.
“I think it speaks to the fact that Mayor Holder is developing a council that is trying to unite [people],” Coun. Lewis said. “Bringing people from different perspectives together into the decision-making process will help build on our success,” he added.
Helmer’s appointment was approved, but not before councillors Paul Van Meerbergen and Steven Hillier made a clear vote against the mayor’s selection.
Councillors then decided to pass a by-law that will allow Helmer to act as deputy mayor for two years. By Dec. 2020, another councillor will be appointed. The two-year term was something Helmer felt content with. “I think it’s wise to kind of move it around and not just have one person for the entire term,” he said.
Regardless of political views, all incoming councillors expressed their desire to ensure that the main issues concerning Londoners are prioritized. “I hope that by the end of these four years people take away that this was a council that really listened to their day-to-day concerns,” said Coun. Lewis.
Holder believes the city is in great hands. “I am so energized. The [councillors] before you are passionate, deeply committed, [and] engaged in our community…[The are] people who are ready and willing to work and serve you,” Holder added as he closed his formal address.
— Sofia Rodriguez (@SofiaXFMNews) December 3, 2018