The Importance of the Chair

by Maureen Dagg

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Councillors Guerard and Maydan asked to appoint someone other than the Mayor as the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. This item was not part of the agenda, and therefore was completely unexpected. This was most interesting. Councillor Guerard had Roberts Rules in hand, and it had to be clarified that the MM procedural bylaw overrides the rule book in this instance. Mayor Lowry generously suggested that further discussion could take place on the issue at another time and moved back to the agenda at hand.

Of course, being so out of the blue, it looked very strange to those in attendance, as if there was a bit of frustration and attempt to get more control over Council. This was all reported in the Friends of Mississippi Mills Facebook page and resulted in lively discussion.

In my opinion, the honourable Christa Lowry is the most likely person to bring this community together; and as a Chair, she is stunning.

Always remember that she is just ONE vote on any motion, so there isn’t a control issue of this sort. If anything, the only control issue is the ability to run a decent meeting – and as the person who received by FAR the most votes in our community, she is head and shoulders above anyone else to keep these meetings productive in this current divisive climate. As Chair of the previous Council, she was excellent, and also has the most experience going forward.

The very FACT that her chairmanship was called to question without it even being on the agenda is the BEST illustration that at least the two councillors who brought it forward are unqualified to run a cohesive meeting: This certainly isn’t following the Rule Book, come to think of it…..

We absolutely NEED our council meetings to proceed with civility and decorum. Any person taking over this position (if indeed Council decides to do this) must be impeccable, lest we dissolve into screaming and name calling.

Chairing is difficult. I have had to do it on school councils, and I am a terrible chair! It requires knowledge, experience, tact, the ability to stop those speaking out of turn or derailing the meeting; and knowing when to NOT speak up.

Take last evening, for example. This was definitely an attempt to derail a meeting… and the chair dealt with it.