Sandra O’Connor took her place as the eighth member of council this week, after being sworn in at the beginning of Monday’s meeting.
There was little fanfare, and some confusion about the virtual event.
Anyone watching the livestream could see town clerk Peter Todd and O’Connor in the council chamber, the rest of the room empty.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero was hoping she and council would see and hear the virtual swearing-in, asking Todd at one point, “are we going to be able to see you?”
The ceremony was quick, with few words. Councillors were not sure if it had been completed, having been unable to see or hear it, when O’Connor left the chamber to join the virtual meeting from the adjoining committee room.
“We’ll just take it for granted that it was done, and it was done appropriately,” said Disero, “so welcome, Sandra, to council.”
The first order of business after the swearing-in, somewhat ironically, O’Connor agreed, was to listen to two appeals of the Town’s tree bylaw.
As a member of the NOTL Conservancy, O’Connor had lobbied for a tree bylaw, attending the public meetings, and in both cases heard Monday, she voted in favour of allowing trees to be removed, after town staff had refused to allow permits.
“I’ve been a tree bylaw supporter for many years,” she said, adding she didn’t have any input on the details.
Both cases enforced O’Connor’s belief that the tree bylaw should allow for some “specifically defined” discretion on the part of town staff, she said.
She says she found her first council meeting — a marathon of seven hours — mentally challenging, but also exciting, and one she had prepared for.
“I think what surprised me most is how many important issues council has to deal with,” she said after the meeting, which included a lengthy closed session.
“Council is working very hard on behalf of residents. What I found is that with a number of issues there is so much to balance, between the Town and the residents, but also sometimes between two different citizens’ rights,” said O’Connor.
“I’ve always wanted to serve the community. Trying to make the best decision is challenging, but I also find it exhilarating.”
Update: O’Conner says she will make a notice of motion at the next opportunity, which will likely be discussed at the September council meeting, Her goal is to give the inspectors some room to allow for situations, such as if someone wants to build a pool or extension on their home, with conditions for tree replacement. Guidelines should be established and approved for when to use this discretion, she says.