It is with some sadness that I read of the passing of Charles Gillan. I served on the Pakenham Council, with Charlie as our reeve for five years (1980-1985). The monthly meetings were held in what was then the combined library and municipal office (now the Olde Crow Gift Shop). We had to wait until the librarian packed the last readers on their way before we could start our meetings at 8:00 pm.
One feature of those meetings has stayed in my mind. Under his leadership, we never had a vote. We would discuss whatever the issue was until he could at last ask “Are we all agreed.” Sometimes it was after eleven before we finished but everything was done by consensus.
An early idea of Charlie’s was to install a washroom on the back of the building. Herman Brodman the Clerk, Treasurer, and often the total office staff had to go across to McCann’s Texaco if he needed a washroom during his workday. The same was true of any other staff working with Herman and the part-time librarian. The public just kept their visits short.
A much more serious issue arose when Charlie and Harry Barr (the deputy reeve) returned from a County meeting with bad news. The County Engineer had inspected the Five Arches Bridge and decided that it had to be replaced. The proposal was to tear down the old bridge and build a nice new cement bridge across the face of the falls in line with Kinburn Road. Charlie spearheaded a campaign to restore the bridge.
He enlisted not only the council, but heritage groups, tourism interests, and anyone else he could think of. He canvased both the federal government and the Provincial level. He beat the drum with the NCC (it’s in their bailiwick) and lobbied both politicians and provincial bureaucrats at the annual Good Roads Convention.
In particular, he worked at the county level. He and Harry both knew that a project this large would require promises related to future projects in other members of the county council`s municipalities. Our whole council made sure that everyone in the Township would do all that they could to oppose the new bridge plan for both economic reasons and aesthetic ones. Finally, they sought and got media coverage. Forty years later the restored bridge is still there.
Charlie left his mark on the Municipality and in our memories.