Chatham-Kent meets new councillors and mayor (GALLERY AND VIDEO)

New members of council are sworn in for the 2018-2022 term at the John D Bradley Convention Centre in Chatham, December 3, 2018. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

“The sky is the limit,” is what Darrin Canniff’s told the crowd after he was sworn in as Chatham-Kent’s new mayor.

Mayor Canniff was one of the 18 members of council sworn in Monday night for the 2018-2022 term. The ceremony took place in front of a packed house at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.

Canniff was the first to take his oath and be sworn in by Justice Stephen Fuerth. Afterwards, he addressed the crowd, sharing his visions for the community and offering messages of hope.

“We want everyone to feel a part of CK. We’ve heard that loud and clear going out into the community that people don’t feel like they’re a part of Chatham-Kent. We’re going to be doing a lot of things to bring Chatham-Kent together,” said Canniff. “We need to feel like one and whether you’re Bothwell, Wheatley or anywhere in between, to be proud to say Chatham-Kent is your home. I want people to feel proud.”

Before being elected mayor, Canniff spent one term on council representing Ward 6. He received 56 per cent of the votes on election day beating out former mayor Randy Hope. Canniff referred to being mayor as his “dream job” and told Blackburn News that he’s looking forward to every challenge that this new role will bring him.

“The challenge will be leadership, we need to work together as a team. Each and every day that’s what I’m thinking, we need to work together as a team collectively. Not only council, but we have a team of more than 100,000 people in this community that we need to bring together,” said Canniff.

During his campaign run, Canniff’s platform focused heavily on community improvement, including a promise to bring more people to the area and create more affordable housing.

Prior to officially being sworn in, Canniff had already started work on his campaign vows. Last week he began visiting local businesses and organizations to talk to them about what barriers they are facing towards success and said he plans to visit hundreds more over the next few months.

“I want to see Chatham-Kent a better place to live work and play, every day. That’s what we strive for,” Canniff said. “Four years from now, I want to see more people here, I want to see people thinking better things about Chatham-Kent, I want to see a whole bunch of wonderful things in Chatham Kent and I want to see a whole bunch of assets added to the community.”

Canniff was met with applause when he told the crowd that he intends to bring more amenities to the area for residents, including bringing back the Festival of Nations.

Although Canniff was a familiar face, many of the new council members sworn in are new to the team. Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, Amy Finn, Aaron Hall, Jamie McGrail, John Wright, Anthony Ceccacci, Mary Clare Latimer and Melissa Harrigan will all be serving their first time on council.

Ceccacci is one of two newcomers to the South Kent Ward. He admitted he’s nervous about getting started on council, but added that he’s excited at all the possibilities the new members will bring.

“I think it’s great, I think its good that we have a lot of different demographics. It’s all about inclusiveness. It’s nice to get a balanced approach to all conversations. We have people that are new to council and we have some veterans. I’m hoping these demographics meshed together will create a good team and we can put a lot of feet forward,” Ceccacci said.

With a degree in political economics and as an already active member of the community, new West Kent Councillor Melissa Harrigan said getting involved was a natural next step.

“If you want something done, sometimes it takes initiative and leadership to make it happen,” said Harrigan. “Over the course of the campaign, I have not only realized what is important to me and what we can do in council, but also what’s important to members of the community, that may not have the same views and opinions or maybe not live in the same circumstances that I do. I’m excited to just overall make our community a better place.”

Harrigan said that although heavy training is required for the role to learn about the different municipal departments and how city administration works, when it comes to actually learning to be a councillor, new members are encouraged to develop into their own role.

“I think a lot of councillor training is learning as you go and making sure you find a good mentor in council to help work with you around the first few motions you put forward. I’m excited to see what the first few Mondays bring,” said Harrigan.

After being sworn in, members of council were read a statement on behalf of Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nichols, who congratulated the incoming members for their achievement and also thanked previous members for their commitment to the region.

The first meeting with the new members of council will take place on December 10.