Alan S. Hale
By Alan S. Hale, The Daily Press
Thursday, December 15, 2016 3:19:12 EST PM
Councillor André Grzela announced on Thursday afternoon that he will be stepping down from the Timmins City Council effective Jan. 3.
The reason for Grzela's departure from the council is that he are relocating from Timmins to the Orleans district of Ottawa to open a hot tub store in that city with members of his family.
Grzela said he has been mulling over the decision for months, and that leaving Timmins and his elected position in the community was not easy not an easy one to make.
“To leave family and friends, an elected position, a fulfilling job, and a place I was proud to call home was not an easy task. It's been a great opportunity to serve on council; a position that enabled me to express what I believed to be right for our great city, as well help residents with their concerns along the way,” said a visibly emotional Grzela at a press conference called inside the mayor's office.
“I thank the residents of Timmins and not just the people who supported me and my views. The people who opposed me and my decisions made me work harder to ensure that I was able to explain the rationale behind those decisions, which proved to be a valuable exercise.
“The City with the Heart of Gold will always be near and dear to my heart.”
Although he will be leaving the city in January, Grzela says he plans to make the trip back to Timmins to take part in the Stars and Thunder event on Canada Day. He also invites anyone from Timmins to come visit him at his new business, Beachcomber Hot Tubs, in Orleans.
Mayor Steve Black said that he and the remaining members of the city council are sad to see Grzela go.
“We are disappointed to lose councillor Grzela as a member of our team. He has been a strong advocate for the community, for residents of all ages, and really, a champion of the areas where this council is focuses: developing the community for the future and making sure Timmins remains a great place to live,” said Black.
The unexpected departure of Grzela from city council leaves the seat for Ward 1 empty with almost two years to go before the next municipal election scheduled to take place in the fall of 2018.
Mayor Black said the city council will call a special meeting next week to discuss their options for filling the seat. According to the law, can either call a by-election for Ward 1 or council could appoint someone to fill the seat until the next regular election.
The mayor appeared to personally favour the latter option, noting that a by-election would cost a great amount of money and that there was precedent in the council's past for appointing a new councillor instead.
“That's a decision the council will have to make as a group, and the time line for that will depend on which option they choose,” the mayor explained. “A by-election would obviously take longer since there would need to be time for candidates to present themselves and a period for campaigning.”
When asked if his business plans could have waited until the end of his elected term, Grzela said that the opportunity in the market he and his family are hoping to exploit couldn't wait.
“It was now or never. The market is where it is now, and it's only a matter of time before someone else sees it. So as far as I am concerned the time is now,” he said.
Grzela's departure comes at a tumultuous time for city council where there have been extremely heated disagreements between members of the council about what direction to take the city. As they go forward without them, Grzela said those disagreements don't necessarily have to be disruptive.
“We have a tremendously diverse council, and I think that is, at times, a good thing. If we had only like-minded people around that table, not a lot of challenges can come from that,” he said. “Keeping an open mind is the best thing I can say because we are so different around that table.”
He doesn't think the conflicts in council will dissuade anyone who wants to replace him from seeking the seat.
Besides leaving his position at city council, Grzela's has also resigned from his job working in constituency office for the local MPP Gilles Bisson.