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OPINION: Knowing When to Call it Quits in Municipal Politics





The path of municipal politics, when first embarked upon, often appears as a rewarding and much-desired line of work. The initial motivation is fueled by the desire to contribute to community improvement, to be a force for positive change, and to work alongside a team with a common goal—the betterment of the community being served.


However, as with any journey, there comes a point when self-reflection becomes imperative. Is there a moment when one should toss in the towel? Should individuals question if their passion for municipal politics remains as potent as it once was?


These questions have gained renewed prominence with the recent announcement from Councillor Ian Froude. While most outside of Newfoundland and Labrador may not recognize his name, the circumstances surrounding his resignation prompt a closer examination of the challenges and considerations faced by those in municipal politics.


Ian Froude was initially elected as a St. John's Councillor in 2017 and subsequently "re-elected" in 2021, the latter term being uncontested. In his resignation statement, he candidly admitted to no longer being motivated to fulfill the role in the way it should be done. He emphasized that it was time for someone else to take on the effort to represent the people of Ward 4 and guide the city forward. Such a frank admission is uncommon in the realm of politics, raising the critical question: if the energy to perform the job is lacking, should one pick up and walk away?


Froude's decision raises eyebrows precisely because it challenges the conventional narrative of unwavering dedication to public service. It's a rarity to hear a public figure acknowledge that their desire to do the job has waned. But does Ian have a valid point? If the passion, the drive, is no longer present, should one persist and fulfill their term, or is it a mark of integrity to step aside? Admiration is due to an individual who can recognize the limits of their effort and acknowledge when it's time for a change.


The act of throwing in the towel is not exclusive to politics. We have all, at some point in our lives, faced situations where the fight seemed insurmountable, and the effort to sustain an endeavour dissipated. The difference lies in the fact that such personal decisions typically go unnoticed, with no news stories written, and no elections required to fill the void left behind. Life moves on, and so will the City of St. John's, which is now gearing up for a by-election to elect a new Ward 4 Councillor. Ian Froude's tenure will undoubtedly be etched into the municipal history books of the community.


This prompts a broader question for municipal politicians across the country: should they periodically look inward to evaluate if their desire and motivation to continue the job remain intact? With upcoming municipal elections in Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, and Yukon, this becomes a pertinent consideration. Traditionally, this is the time when municipal leaders, off the record, ponder whether they have another four years in them to give.


Is it worth enduring another four years of late-night meetings, lengthy budget deliberations, numerous residential interactions, and the ongoing battle for the betterment of the community against provincial and federal forces? Is it time to throw in the towel and bow out gracefully? These are pressing questions that demand introspection, not just from the incumbents but also from potential candidates contemplating entering the arena.


Prospective municipal candidates must grapple with the realities of the job. Municipalities are the backbone of our country, tackling local issues, and interacting directly with the community. Aspiring leaders need to assess if their ambition aligns with the day-to-day challenges. The grocery stores, diners, and Saturday morning hockey practices become the backdrop of their work, and readiness for these realities is paramount.


In my interviews on the Cross Border Interviews, I often ask municipal leaders for advice to prospective candidates. The responses vary, ranging from attending council meetings to speaking with current officials about the demands of the job. One recurring piece of advice is a reminder that councils operate as a team, with each member having one vote. It underscores the collaborative nature of municipal governance.


The most honest and idealistic candidates can experience burnout and lose their appetite for community service. Hence, there is a need to prepare prospective candidates for the harsh realities of the job. If, unlike me, you don't find enjoyment in watching a six-hour budget meeting, delving into the intricacies of transportation, or even reading the updated Municipal Act, perhaps you should reconsider your decision to run.


To the current councillors, mayors, reeves, and other elected officials reading this, the time has come for introspection. Ask yourself if your desire to serve remains as strong as it was when first elected. Is your passion for the job as unwavering as it once was, and is there still a fighting spirit within you to contribute to your community?


If the answer to these questions is a resounding no, it might be time to hang up your hat and throw in the towel. Municipalities need dedicated individuals around the council table—individuals driven by a genuine commitment to their community's best interests, not just someone cashing a paycheque.


The challenges may be daunting, and the future of municipalities may be unknown, but the call to public service demands resilience, passion, and an unwavering dedication to the betterment of our communities.

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