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Councillors quit amid political turmoil on St. Joseph Island

Former councillor charges 'every meeting a struggle.' Reeve says he doesn't 'live in that realm of whining and crying'
Tractor Flower Bed
Jocelyn Township Reeve Mark Henderson says this year's Harvest Festival will go ahead as planned after the township's recreation committee walked away from the event in the midst of growing political unrest among community members over allegations against the reeve and council.

A pair of councillors on St. Joseph Island has publicly resigned in the midst of political unrest that has seemingly taken over a small, rural township east of Sault Ste. Marie. 

Jocelyn Township councillors Faye Stevens and Janet Callahan quit their roles on council last month — even going as far as announcing their resignations publicly on Island Clippings, a community-oriented publication serving the St. Joseph Island area. 

In Stevens' resignation letter — which she read aloud before leaving a June 29 council meeting with Callahan — the first-term councillor said she had hoped to work as part of a team when she initially ran for a leadership role during the 2022 municipal election. 

“But I have found it to be a top-down local government with all action driven by the reeve,” Stevens said in her letter to council, which she provided to SooToday. “Practically every council meeting was a struggle, rather than an exercise in informed co-operative decision-making. It never seemed to matter if proper procedures of municipal law were followed when it came to roads, taxes, budgets or anything else.

“There were always workarounds proposed for those deemed to be relatives, friends or voting supporters.”

Neither Stevens nor Callahan would comment on their resignations when contacted by SooToday.    

Jocelyn Township Reeve Mark Henderson has told SooToday the accusations against him laid out by Stevens in her resignation letter are "just her opinion," and "not really facts."     

"Obviously the majority of people in the township disagree with her, because I was just returned to office after being there for 20-some years," Henderson said.    

Jason Kennedy and Nelson Soares have since been appointed to replace the outgoing members of council.     

The reeve has characterized the departure of the former councillors as "people who are just unhappy" because "they didn’t get their way." 

"Exactly how they didn’t get their way, I don’t know," said Henderson, when asked for clarification by SooToday. “You have to ask them that.”

Henderson went on to add that he doesn't "live in that realm of whining and crying.” 

“It’s a democratic society — we vote on things, and if it doesn’t go the way you want, I guess you work hard to try and change it next time,” said the township reeve. “I don’t know how you get things done by quitting.”

And quitting is something that’s been happening all too often in Jocelyn Township these days: sources have told SooToday the clerk treasurer has resigned and the deputy clerk has taken leave — all of which occurring this summer, around the same time the councillors announced their resignations.

The township’s recreation committee has also quit as organizer of the annual Harvest Festival, a role which has traditionally been taken on by the committee over the years. 

A member of the recreation committee, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from council, told SooToday the majority of committee members voted to walk away from the event due to the “disheartening” political turmoil that’s been unfolding.              

“They decided to cancel it, mostly because there’s so many people upset about all the things that are happening in the township regarding the reeve and council,” they said. “They really don’t want to volunteer and support things in the municipality.” 

Henderson acknowledged that while “a few people in key positions” have stepped away from the festival, the late summer tradition in Jocelyn Township will go ahead as planned. 

People interested in volunteering for the Harvest Festival are being encouraged by the reeve to call the township office.   

“I really think that people are looking to keep this story — which I would call really a negative story — alive,” said Henderson. “But we’re all about getting things done.”

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie
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