PORT McNEILL—In what was as much a celebration of the retirement of longtime mayor Gerry Furney, Port McNeill’s new mayor and council were sworn in Monday night before a standing-room only crowd in council chambers.
Incoming Mayor Shirley Ackland was joined by councillors Jay Dixon, Shelley Downey, Aaron Frost and Graham MacDonald in the brief ceremony, which was both opened and closed by Furney — who served on the Town’s first council and who spent 39 years as mayor before choosing not to run for office again this fall.
“This is a day in history,” Ackland said in a room bedecked with photos of past councils, nearly all of them bearing Furney’s likeness. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a mayor as long as we have leading our town and putting us on such a good foundation. As he’s said many times, it’s a job he’s enjoyed, serving this community, because he really cares about all of us who live here.”
Then, turning to Furney, Ackland added, “We hope we do you proud.”
Ackland is the lone returning member from the most recent municipal government, having served the past six years on council. Both Downey and Frost, though, return after previously serving on council — Downey from 2006-11 and Frost from 2008-11. Dixon, the principal at North Island Secondary School, and MacDonald, a small business owner, are first-time elected officials.
Ackland followed the oath of office by acknowledging town staff, fire chief Chris Walker, RCMP Sgt. Craig Blanchard, North Island MLA Claire Trevena and municipal airport manager Bill Velie, a longtime friend and coffee-shop partner of Furney’s.
Also in the audience were outgoing councillors Grant Anderson and Gaby Wickstrom and various family members and friends of incoming and outgoing officials. Outgoing councillor Chris Sharpe was traveling in Alberta and sent his regrets.
Furney, in turn, thanked, “the lady who gets me dressed,” referring to his wife Carmel. In an unusual twist, perhaps to avoid speaking any further, Furney then offered to adjourn the meeting that he had opened a few minutes earlier.
Frost seconded the motion, and Ackland made it official, putting a stamp on what might have been Furney’s final official public engagement after serving as councillor or mayor for 46 years.
The meeting then broke up into a general meet-and-greet over a cake decorated with the Port McNeill Town flag design, as council posed for photos accompanied by Sgt. Blanchard in his red serge.
Trevena presented Furney with a gift of a copy of her Legislative statement on Furney and the Town of Port McNeill, as recorded during the B.C. Legislature’s session of Nov. 6.
The first official meeting for the incoming council is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 15, beginning at 7:30 p.m.