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Terry Whitehead steps down after a 19-year council career

Terry Whitehead steps down after a 19-year council career

As the 2PM deadline for registering for nominations for Hamilton council passed, Terry Whitehead’s name did not appear on the list of Ward 14 candidates, bringing to an end Whitehead’s 19-year career on Hamilton Council. Probably the most controversial Hamilton councillor seen in 25 years, Whitehead’s final term was marked with well-publicized adverse findings by the Integrity Commissioner over what had become, particularly in recent years, a pattern of bullying and intimidating behavior aimed at staff. Whitehead blamed some of his increasingly erratic behavior on an undisclosed illness, which indeed did appear to impair his ability to express himself coherently, especially after council went to electronic meetings during the pandemic. But Whitehead had always been a tough interrogator of staff dating back at least to 2010 when in a tense debate, Whitehead repeatedly berated staff, saying they were avoiding his questions. The situation was serious enough that then City Manager Chris Murray told Whitehead that if his line of questioning continued, he would pull his senior management team out of council chambers and take the questions himself. The city senior management team burst into applause.

Whitehead was first elected as councillor for the west mountain Ward 8 in 2003. In four subsequent re-election bids, he garnered more votes than his opponents combined, including 2018 when he shifted to Ward 14 as a result of Ward redistribution. From 1990 to 1995, Whitehead served as Special Assistant to  David Christopherson, then Minister of Correctional Services and Solicitor General of Ontario; from 1995 to 2000, he was Chief of Staff to late mayor Bob Morrow and from 2001 to 2003, as Special Advisor to  Sheila Copps, then Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Whitehead issued the following statement Friday which reads in part:

“For the past 19 years of my life, I have had the humbling responsibility of representing Ward 14 (and formerly Ward 8). Throughout this time, I’ve done my utmost to represent the concerns of residents here and across the city; to hold council and staff accountable by asking tough questions and seeking clarity on issues many would rather have swept under the rug.

Tempting and vastly more comfortable though it would have been to keep my head down and appease the loudest and most demanding voices or special interests, that’s never been who I am. It’s never been politics as usual for me.

I often found myself at odds with the status quo, not making decisions to be popular on council but because I truly believed they would be the right choices for us all.

Frankly, I could not have done this without the love and support of my family who have stood by my side through every season.

The past couple of years however, have brought new and greater challenges than I had expected. Family illnesses, the loss of loved ones, and my own declining health –all exacerbated by the trials we faced together during the pandemic.

The toll it took has been lasting to say the least, which is why I know it’s time for me to take a step back, and not seek re-election as your councillor this upcoming election. At this point, for myself and my loved ones there can be no other choice.

I’m grateful for my staff, both past and present, who have taken charge especially in this period to ensure our office continues to serve our residents. Many thanks to my current EA Serena Samuel.

Thanks also to my past campaign team and volunteers who worked tirelessly to support my re-elections.

I am genuinely proud of the work we’ve accomplished together. I’m particularly proud of the creation of the multi-use facility Chedoke Twin Pad Arena, home of the Chedoke Bocce Club; my efforts in championing the design and development of William Connell Park and its Winter Wonderland; the F.O.R.E Golf Program, providing our city’s youth the opportunity to learn the game of golf; and most recently the establishment of the Rental Housing Licensing By-Law, pilot program for which has begun in Ward 14 among other wards in the city. These and the hundreds of other projects, organizations and issues I’ve advocated for have been immensely personally rewarding

Serving as your councillor has been the greatest honour I could imagine.

Prior to the pandemic I was proud to be one of, if not the most accessible councillor in the city; hosting a meet and greet at Westcliffe Mall nearly every month. Getting together with and hearing from you has been a joy.

While I may not be on the ticket this time, as you head to the polls this October, I urge you to look into each of the candidates vying to represent you. Ensure that the values your candidate espouses truly represent what you want to see in your own neighbourhood.

Look at their platforms and promises, and more importantly their wider experiences, and ask yourself if their concerns align with your own.

Do they keep your community safe and healthy? Keep your tax dollars working for you? Are they even a part of your community?

This is a pivotal time for our ward and our city, and the next council has some big decisions to make. Only dead fish go with the flow, and we need a councillor willing and capable of swimming against the current to represent the priorities of our ward.

Thank you for your support and the trust you’ve placed in me over these past two decades. As I head into a period of healing and rest for myself, I look forward to seeing what the next chapter holds for our ward and our city!”

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