Retiring Clearview councillor reflects on career
Connie Leishman has always been keenly interested in local politics, but for much of her life didn’t have the time to serve on local government. Forty five years ago, Leishman and her husband Mike moved their home and their pottery business to the former Cairns Corners Schoolhouse on the 9th concession of Sunnidale. The early years were busy with three young children but Connie always kept a close eye on current events.
Fast forward to 1994. With the girls in senior public and high school, Leishman decided to seek election as a school board trustee. She was acclaimed, and went on to serve for several years before she was sidelined by health issues.
Leishman was a vocal opponent of the proposed amalgamation of the Town of Stayner, the Village of Creemore and the townships of Nottawasaga and Sunnidale to form Clearview. She recalls that Sunnidale, with Reeve Burnfield Wines at the helm, was a great place to live and was in good shape financially. She eventually embraced the new structure, but is not convinced that the promisedefficiencies of shared services has really come to pass. More than 25 years after the birth of Clearview, Leishman feels that people still see the township as a collection of fiefdoms, lacking a cohesive sense of community.
Leishman and her husband both believe that all the communities that make up Clearview are stronger together. They do their bit by attending events and supporting businesses in all corners of the township. They have been big supporters of amateur sports and any activities that bring people and families from across the township together.
Eight years ago, Leishman made the leap to municipal politics when she became Councillor for Clearview Township Ward Six. The experience has been very rewarding. She feels her biggest achievement as a councillor was shepherding development of the new Stayner library from concept stage all the way to the impressive new facility which has won major architectural awards. She is also proud of the creation of a Culture and Recreation department to develop a coordinated approach to events like Music, Market & Park It; the Small Halls Festival and the Great Northern Exhibition.
The job also comes with plenty of frustrations. Looking back, Leishman describes her first four year term as a piece of cake. Her second term has been dominated by challenges with the massive Cronos Medical Marijuana facility on Concession 12, the cancelled Roxodus music festival, and the biggie: COVID-19. Ever the optimist, Leishman notes that some good comes out of those big challenges. While Cronos’ consultants were looking for a water source for their operation they identified several previously undiscovered aquifers. That led to the township finding a suitable spot for a new well on Klondike Road which will supply new subdivisions in Stayner.
Leishman recently presented a report to council calling for establishment of an affordable housing task force after this fall’s municipal election. She is disappointed that the current council could not find a way to create more affordable housing for seniors, and believes strongly that the amount of money being added to reserves to deal with the problem must be increased.
Her biggest regret as she winds down her term as Clearview Councillor is that she did not get to meet everyone in her ward. Her advice to anyone interested in stepping into her shoes: “Give it plenty of thought and talk to your family. There will be some really bad days and you will need someone to vent to.”
The Leishmans have sold their home and are winding up the pottery business. They will move to their daughter’s cottage near Tobermory while they consider the next move.