Longtime city councillor and executive director of the SDG Legal Clinic Bernadette Clement was elected as the next mayor of the City of Cornwall on Monday.
Clement was able to both unseat incumbent Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy and fend off fiscally conservative challenger Coun. Dave Murphy by getting nearly 54 per cent of the popular vote on Monday.
In her victory speech at the Cornwall Civic Complex, she thanked her supporters and the community at large.
Almost 7,000 votes were cast for Clement on Monday, which was double that of her closest challenger Murphy. Clement said she was deeply honoured by the level of support she received at the polls, but said she is also conscious of the responsibility that now rests on her shoulders.
“I know that this community is going to hold me and this next council to a high standard. So we have a lot of work to do, and a lot to live up to. But I truly believe we are up to the challenge if we are engaging with each other and working together, ” she said.
With that in mind, Clement said among her first actions as the mayor-elect would be to begin attempts to bring the newly-elected councillors together as a team so they will be ready to govern effectively when they take office.
“I want to meet all 10 councillors individually, and I think the first things we’ll want to do is talk about team building, long-term planning, and the budget — because that’s coming very soon,” she said.
Clement is the first woman to be elected mayor of Cornwall as well as being the first visible minority to hold the office, and she said she is “very proud of that.” It’s a significant milestone for the community and it’s one that she hopes will inspire children in Cornwall.
“(I want) children – boys and girls — everywhere to see that running for office is just something that women do,” she said. “I am also proud to be the Francophone black mayor of Cornwall. But I want to remind people that Cornwall elected its first Jewish mayor (Aaron Horovitz) decades ago, so this is nothing that necessarily unusual for Cornwall to do.
“Now we’re just going to continue to build on the history of diversity that we’ve had here for the past 235 years.”
O’Shaughnessy takes his leave
Incumbent O’Shaughnessy seemed disappointed, but also a little relieved when he came into the civic complex to concede the race about an hour after the results began to come in on Monday evening. He said the people had spoken and it was time for him to move on.
“You never own your seat as mayor or on council; it’s yours for limited period of time and when people decide its time to make a change, you must respect that,” said O’Shaughnessy.
The mayor got about 2,500 votes, which is just under 20 per cent of the popular vote. O’Shaughnessy, like many people, said he had a hard time getting a sense of where voters were leaning in this election, but they made up their minds in the end.
After his term ends at the end of next month, O’Shaughnessy says he plans to retire and begin to do more volunteer work and maybe work part-time.
“It will be something with little responsibility. My cellphone is going in the garbage on the first of December,” he said.