Central Councillor Patricia Macdonald reflects on public service

CENTRAL MANITOULIN—Municipal politicians come and go, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes with a bit of encouragement at the ballot box, but for those who make the decision to step back from the council table of their own volition they often reflect back on their time in the “hot seat” as a positive experience. The Expositor caught up with Central Manitoulin Councillor Patricia Macdonald following the occasion of her last municipal council meeting to chat about her thoughts.

“My first term it was pretty hard to do it justice,” she laughed. “It was a pretty steep learning curve, but by the time I was serving my second term I had a better idea of the issues that had to be addressed and the process for doing so. In both terms there certainly were a lot of challenges.” Before her first run, Ms. Macdonald had indicated her intention to only run for municipal office for two terms.

Ms. Macdonald said the impetus for her deciding to run was manifold. “I really liked being part of this community,” she said. “I found it to be a community that did a lot of giving and I wanted to give back. So you can say that this was my way of giving back.”

The other influence in getting Ms. Macdonald to run was the urging of her son-in-law, former long time Central Manitoulin municipal councillor Steve Orford. “He encouraged me to run,” she said.

“One of the things that struck me when I came in was at the start was the amount of tax dollars we were handling,” she said. “It was challenging making the decisions on spending other people’s money.” The sheer size of municipal government, even in a relatively small rural community was another big challenge. 

Although she represented a ward of the municipality, Ms. Macdonald said that she approached the responsibility with a broader view. “I like to believe I gave representation to the whole community,” she said. “But the sheer size of the municipality makes it difficult to know everything about all of it.” 

Long-time Central Manitoulin councillor Patricia Macdonald stepped down after years of service to her community.

But if there is advice she might pass on to her successors, it would be to have an open mind to the needs of the entire community, not just their own back yards. “There are so many things we need to address,” she said. “There are all of the sub-buildings in the community, the landfill issues, water concerns. You have to open for the needs of the people.” The job definitely calls for maintaining a balance that meets the needs of everyone. “There is so much infrastructure that needs to be maintained.”

Ms. Macdonald said that she has a particular fondness for the Providence Bay Community Centre and that she is very proud of how the Providence Bay community has pulled together to make things happen to revitalize that community. “It’s nice to see people get together and get to meet people in the community,” she said.

Ms. Macdonald had high praise for the staff and administration of Central Manitoulin, who she said provided tremendous support and service.

As for committee work in the greater Island sphere, Ms. Macdonald has also played an important role. “I have really enjoyed working on the (Manitoulin Centennial) Manor board,” she said. Although it is a role that rotates between different municipalities each term, Ms. Macdonald has found herself on the board representing those communities as well. In fact, she has been approached about remaining on the board through the next term, even though she is no longer on council and it is now Tehkummah’s turn at the table.

As for the future of her replacements on council, Ms. Macdonald said she was confident they would also find their time productive and positive. “People who live in my ward are very supportive,” she said. “We have so many wonderful volunteers. I really think we have a very special place here.”