Farewell from Councillor Alex Gillis after 26 years

It is hard to believe that I will not be running for council for the first time since 1991, but I am happy to see the large number of good candidates who have come forward for this election – a healthy sign of democracy at work in Mississippi Mills.  After a long and rewarding time on Council, it is time to move aside.

Although it is bittersweet, I take solace in leaving Council with a tremendous amount of job satisfaction; as well as, fond memories of many happy occasions and of really interesting work and accomplishments that I hope have contributed to the great quality of life, here in Mississippi Mills. It is important to acknowledge the encouragement, support and contributions that I have received from Council and Staff in Almonte and Mississippi Mills; we are nothing if not a team. I voted, in 1997, for the amalgamation of Almonte, Ramsay and Pakenham to form Mississippi Mills and think it is really special that my wife, Elizabeth, actually, suggested the name of the new town over 20 years ago.

I am genuinely thankful to the citizens of Almonte Ward for voting for me in so many elections and I am very proud to have served both Almonte and Mississippi Mills for over 26 years. 

I’m happy to share with you that my lengthy time on Council was recognized by the Province last year with a Long-standing Service Award 25 years.

Shortly after moving to Almonte in 1988, I decided to run for Council, and to my great surprise and joy, I was elected to my first term of office in 1991.  In 1992, I retired from the Canadian Forces after 31 years, leaving as a Colonel.  I was proud to have served as a RCEME officer in Germany, England and across Canada.  Even though I did “dabble” in the private sector until 1997, my true second career was, really, as a councillor.   Coming from a very modest upbringing in New Waterford, Nova Scotia, where my family faced the challenges of living without a father who was killed in a terrible workplace accident, I would never have believed that I would have these opportunities to serve my country and community in such a fulfilling and meaningful way.

Alex & Elizabeth Gillis with Honourable Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs After Long-standing Service Award 25 years Presentation, Sep 2017 in Kingston

I was fortunate enough to attend both St F.X.U. & Nova Scotia Technical College (now a part of Dalhousie University), where I attained a Mechanical Engineering degree; and, and to have the especially good fortune of going to school in England (Royal Military College of Science Shrivenham), where I attained  a Master of Science in Information Systems.  Luckily, I left St FX, having met and married the love of my life, Elizabeth, with whom I have two daughters, Michelle and Helen.

A Few Proud Moments on Council

While there have been many special achievements along the way, some of the most memorable, to me, have been: Almonte Riverwalk, Mississippi Mills Business Park, Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP), Almonte & Ramsay Fire Halls and Almonte Daycare building expansion.  The Riverwalk is developing into a wonderful attraction and is my favourite project.  It is great to see that after a slow start, all Business Park lots are sold except for one.  The WWTP, critically, has allowed Almonte to grow and it is an excellent facility that delivers highly treated water into the river that is actually drinkable. The new fire halls are much safer for our firefighters and have facilitated a better firefighting response. The Daycare provides an essential and improved service for families with younger children.

Of course, none of these could have been achieved without the contributions and support of collaborators, Council and Staff and citizens.  For me, the Riverwalk in Almonte is a picturesque reminder of what can be achieved when we work together.

I have tried to help Mississippi Mills in other ways in the areas of: community & economic development, heritage preservation, administration and finance.  Most importantly, I contributed to the Town’s decisions to retain the Almonte Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and to transition it into the Mississippi River Power Company (MRPC) and the Ottawa River Power Company (ORPC).  Also, I helped form the  Almonte/Ramsay Economic Development Committee (EDC), later to become the important Community & EDC (C&EDC).  It has been important to me that the Municipality be operated well so I have argued, often, for operational and service delivery reviews, and I contributed to the first Long-term Financial Plan for Mississippi Mills.  Additionally, I represented Almonte water and wastewater issues, over the years, championed the cultural use of the Almonte Old Town Hall, and contributed to the Mississippi Mills beautification effort.

Pitch-In participation for Beautification Committee

It’s hard to say good-bye after all of that we have achieved together.  Of course, you will still see me around our lovely town, and I plan on continuing to serve in a variety of volunteer functions.  I hope that the successful council candidates, soon to be elected, are able to derive the same level of fulfillment that I have from my time as councillor and that they recognize that it is a real privilege and an honour to serve on Council.  I’m sure that I will suffer Council withdrawal, but I am not ready for the rocking chair just yet!

A profound thank you to the residents of Mississippi Mills as well as to the mayors, councillors and municipal staff that I have worked with along the way.

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