The Kenora community will be electing a new Mayor this fall.
On August 12, Mayor Dan Reynard confirmed with regional media members that he will not be letting his name stand in this fall’s election, saying the decision was a difficult one to make and he is keeping his reasons private.
That means Kenora is set to elect its 9th Mayor on October 24. Currently, councillor Andrew Poirier is running for the seat, along with Andy Scribilo and David Byers-Kitt.
Reynard was elected as Kenora’s Mayor in 2018, defeating Lydia Harlos for the seat.
Reynard succeeded long-term Mayor and fellow council member Dave Canfield, after his 14 years of service to the community. Mayor Reynard had served one term as councillor under Canfield.
Reynard, a lifelong Kenora resident and former KMTS Finance Manager and Municipal Treasurer, has also been involved in minor hockey at both local and regional levels in a variety of roles for over 33 years and has been recognized as an RBC Local Hockey Leader.
Since his 2018 election, the City of Kenora and the community as a whole have undergone major changes under Reynard’s leadership.
They include a new-look downtown core after phase 4 of downtown revitalization with a new roundabout and an improved First Street to smooth traffic flow, an upgraded Kenora Shoppers Mall, new parking meters downtown and work is starting at McLeod Park – the first step of a $25 million redevelopment of the Harbourfront and Greenbelt.
Other new projects include the Kenora Rotary Club’s Splash Park partnership at Norman Park, which is also seeing a number of improvements with help from the province, as is Keewatin Beach, and the Rotary Club’s new Peace Park’s construction is underway near Safeway.
The Discovery Centre has seen some upgrades with more Science North exhibits coming up, work is finally beginning on Railway Street, the new Central Community Club is set to open this winter and the Kenora Forest Products114-acre property will eventually be redeveloped.
Reynard also helped create a clean-water partnership with Wauzhushk Onigum, helped to move the All Nations Hospital Project forward, created a partnership to sell but protect Town Island and helped introduce the Makwa Patrol to the community.
Reynard and the City of Kenora also helped Q104 and KenoraOnline break a World Record in July 2019, as 1,359 people all wore plaid with pride under the Whitecap Pavilion.
But there were also some low-lights during Reynard’s tenure.
Some divisive issues have included a significant water rate increase for apartment units, a possible sale of the Keewatin Medical Clinic, a possible relocation of the LCBO, the introduction and scrap of ‘Jump In’, the use of wood chips at Garrow Park and concrete blocks at Rabbit Lake, and a voted down loitering by-law.
Reynard also kickstarted the western half of Central Park’s redevelopment process, which as of now, has been stopped by Ontario’s Land Tribunal and resident Dawn Mitchell. Although, the city says they are exploring their options for the area moving forward, and plans for the eastern half with new hockey rinks, volleyball courts and more, are also moving ahead.
There was also the fire and destruction of the Lila’s Block, which led to the loss of a local business, the displacement of countless residents and a hole left in the downtown core, which was somewhat filled by a patio and lease situation with Beaver Tails.
That being said, Reynard has navigated a variety of difficult issues within the community, the most significant of which, was a major gap for housing of all kinds in the area.
While new housing developments have been announced, including supportive housing units in the Evergreen area and on Matheson Street in partnership with the Kenora District Services Board, it’s likely not enough.
In a media release surrounding the decision at Central Park, the City of Kenora says they do not believe the current pace of residential development in the municipality, which has totalled 139 units over the past five years, is sufficient to address the need identified in multiple reports.
While Reynard has repeatedly lobbied the province for additional support for new housing developments in the area, the KDSB says their housing wait-list has increased by nearly 350 per cent in the last 11 years.
As well, half of Reynard’s reign as Mayor was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, ending many events that community members and councillors look forward to every year.
And the community dealt with record-high flood levels this spring and summer, making life difficult for residents, businesses and everyone across the region throughout much of the first half of 2022.
Other issues still on the agenda for Kenora’s next Mayors and councillors include addressing the need for housing, the possible twinning of the Kenora Rec Centre’s ice surface, the reduction of policing costs, phase five of downtown revitalization, the Harbourfront’s redevelopment and the possible development of a casino at the former mill site.
The next municipal election is set for October 24, 2022. Residents have until August 19 to file their nomination forms.