When news broke Wednesday night that Gerry Marshall was resigning his post as mayor of Penetanguishene as well as warden of Simcoe County to take a position as interim CAO of the Town of Wasaga Beach, residents weren’t the only ones surprised by the announcement.
“His commitment was to lead Simcoe County. I voted for him. I think many are stunned,” Adjala-Tosorontio Township Deputy Mayor Doug Little told BarrieToday when reached for comment Thursday.
Little and many other county councillors, including Marshall, are returning this week from the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference.
Little says he first heard the rumblings about Marshall stepping down while at the conference, but hoped it wasn’t true.
“I’m very disappointed with the timing of this,” he said.
With Marshall announcing his resignation the day after councillors are returning from the conference, Little said he has concerns about how it makes the county look on the provincial stage.
“We attended AMO and met with new ministers and MPPs with Marshall as our leader,” Little said. “What does that tell the ministers about us?
“In my opinion, this decision was clearly made prior to AMO. I think this shows a lack of professionalism,” Little added. “There will be a ripple effect in many municipalities now.”
Part of that ripple effect is the state of town council in Penetanguishene.
Penetanguishene Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau will be serving as interim mayor until the municipal election on Oct. 22.
“I will step up. It was quite a surprise that he chose to do that at this time,” she said.
Dubeau says she was made aware of the news about 24 hours before media releases were sent out Wednesday night.
“I would say this is very much out of the ordinary,” said Dubeau. “I wish Marshall all the best in, what I think, will be a transition being a politician to being someone who is responsible to and takes direction from council.
"It will be an interesting transition.”
As Marshall was in the race for Penetanguishene mayor in the upcoming municipal election and has missed the deadline to rescind his application, he will still be on the ballot for Penetanguishene residents. Therefore, the only other candidate for mayor in the municipality, Douglas Leroux, can’t be officially acclaimed to the position.
“I look forward to serving (Wasaga Beach) town council over the months ahead and providing effective guidance to our staff,” Marshall said in Wednesday night's release. “I will work to see that council’s objectives are met and I am excited about working with staff to ensure the best municipal services are delivered for the residents of Wasaga Beach.”
When contacted for further comment on Thursday morning, Town of Wasaga Beach communications officer Michael Gennings indicated Marshall would be unavailable for media interviews until next week.
Essa Township Mayor Terry Dowdall will step up to take on Marshall’s responsibilities at the county level until the new warden is appointed in early December.
“I was surprised with the announcement, but as deputy warden, I am familiar with the role,” Dowdall said when reached by BarrieToday on Thursday for an interview.
“I am fortunate to have great county councillors to reach out to for support and assistance,” he added. “I certainly wish Gerry Marshall all the best in his new role.”
Simcoe County CAO Mark Aitken says that while there may be some discussions surrounding next steps after Marshall’s resignation, he doesn’t see any major problems going forward.
“County council may discuss some options in terms of more formal appointments for the remainder of the term of council at their next scheduled meeting in September, but it is anticipated at this time the deputy warden will continue to undertake the duties outlined,” said Aitken, adding that current sitting councillors will remain in office until the end of their term, Nov. 30, regardless of municipal election outcomes.
In Wasaga Beach, Mayor Brian Smith says he’s delighted by Marshall’s assistance in taking on the position.
“Gerry brings to the job energy and knowledge that I know will serve our community well,” Smith said.
Marshall is replacing George Vadeboncoeur until a permanent CAO is named by the next council.
Vadeboncoeur retired from the position in July after nearly 13 years with the municipality.
“I retired primarily for personal reasons... (there are some) health issues within my family. I felt I needed to spend more time with my family,” Vadeboncoeur said. “When I decided to retire, I wanted to put my name forward to run for council in Penetanguishene.
"I saw it as an extension of my community service.”
Wasaga Beach council engaged a consultant to assist with the selection process and considered three candidates, interviewing two. Acting on advice from the majority of the members of council, Vadeboncoeur authorized a six-month employment contract with Marshall, effective Aug. 23.
“Seven members of council voted and their preferred candidate was Marshall,” Vadeboncoeur said.
Vadeboncoeur said he will support Marshall until Sept. 28 to ensure a smooth transition.