With all five members returning, Wellesley council chambers were somewhat subdued for Monday night’s inaugural meeting of the new term.
Following a year that witnessed local tempers flare over a proposed trail by the Wellesley Trails Association, and saw township spending concerns arise among councillors, this first session was a time for ceremony and reflections as councillors Shelley Wagner (Ward 1), Herb Neher (Ward 2), Jim Olender (Ward 3) and Paul Hergott (Ward 4), as well as Mayor Ross Kelterborn, were sworn-in for another four-year term.
All five were acclaimed ahead of the Oct. 25 municipal election.
A brief slide show of photographs highlighting the work accomplished in the past four years was shown to the approximately 20 family and invited guests present that night, including the renovation of the township office and various public-works projects such as road paving on Ament Line and Manser Road, as well as several bridge repair projects.
Kelterborn then read the oath of office and was presented with the chain of office by chief administrative officer Susan Duke.
“As usual, it is a privilege for me to work with the staff of Wellesley Township, and this particular council has worked as a team together for the betterment of this township,” said Kelterborn.
Referring to the slideshow, Kelterborn said how proud he was of the many projects approved and passed by council in the previous four years, projects that include the Mill Creek subdivision and the St. Clements industrial land development.
However, he was quick to point out the first and most pressing issue facing this new term of council: the township’s budget.
“In my opinion, because we spent and used a lot of our reserves for getting (federal) stimulus money – where we got $2 for every $1 we put in – we depleted a lot of our reserves, and I think it is incumbent upon us to rebuild those reserves back to approximately where they were,” he said.
The councillors were then sworn back into office by reading and signing their oaths, and each had the opportunity to say a few words.
“When I first ran people asked ‘why the heck would you want to sit for four years?’” mused Olender. “Well, that four years went by in a flash, so I’m looking forward to the next four with the same group.”
Neher echoed Kelterborn’s appreciation of the current council’s team approach to problem-solving and decision- making.
“We’ve gotten to know each other, and regardless of the decisions that you make you’re always going to have someone who is adversely affected by the decision,” Neher said. “I think we’ve done a good job of compromising in those situations so it becomes a win-win situation, and I think it takes skills to do that.”
There is no question that the next four years will be full of challenges. With the township’s pressing budget issues, the planning required to accommodate the growth that the area is expecting over the next decade, and that pesky trail debate that just won’t seem to go away, the five individuals who sit around the council table certainly have their hands full.
And in his opening prayer to the group, Pastor Andy Schroth foreshadowed the inevitable challenges that council will face over the next four years.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could agree on everything around the table? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if you didn’t have any hard decisions to make or anyone to disappoint?” he said.
“But your world isn’t like that.”