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Essex County council makes history with gender parity, strategic plan

Updated: Jan 9

History was made in Essex County on December 20, 2023.

Not only did County Council approve its first -ever Strategic Plan, but around the decision-making table, gender parity.

With the absence of Amherstburg Mayor Michael Prue, Councillor Diane Pouget stepped in, and for Essex, Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley was replaced by Councillor Kim Verbeek. There were seven male and seven females at the meeting.

“This is the first one, it’s very exciting,” said Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy about the Strategic Plan. “It’s another first as we have gender parity in our council chamber tonight which is probably the first time in history.”

Essex County’s Strategic Plan was unanimously accepted, and the document contains a Vision and Mission for Essex County as well as Values and most importantly it seems, setting strategic goals and directions.

“The vision has been slightly amended to reflect and incorporate residents as a focus in the vision in addition to the local communities,” said Chris Loreto from Strategy Corp, the consultants that wrote the plan.

The three foundations of the new first ever Essex County Strategic Plan are: Working as Team Essex County; Growing as Leaders in Public Services Excellence; and Building a Regional Powerhouse.

The County has been working on the plan since the spring and Loreto said that since the consultation with the various stakeholders, has extended the definition of Building a Regional Powerhouse. It will now include advancing truth and reconciliation and building deeper relationships and partnerships with local First Nation communities as well as other Indigenous residents.

“This plan is not just the product of a working session with Council, but with significant stakeholder consultation,” added Loreto.

Loreto noted that not only were members of council, staff and administration consulted on the direction of the plan, but so were the CAO’s of each of the seven individual municipalities.

Essex County CAO Sandra Zwiers thanked communications manager Don McArthur as well as Clerk Mary Birch who, when the process to develop the plan began, was the interim CAO.

“This is a great night for us but it’s the start of a lot of heavy lifting. Now the real work begins,” said Zwiers.

She said that a lot of work is ahead for the county’s administration team and realizes that the public will hold the county accountable.

“This is only going to help us move forward as a county,” said LaSalle Mayor Crystal Meloche.

The Strategic Plan highlighted the fact that the county is well positioned to tackle the opportunities and challenges ahead. Massive growth and development are forecasted and county leadership is proud of the ongoing collaboration with the City of Windsor.

“For me, the hard work is just beginning. This will hold us accountable. This will be our performance review,” said Essex County Warden and Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald.

The primary purpose of the first ever plan is to provide a clear path forward for how to create value for the county’s partners, local residents and community.

By Fred Groves

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