Estevan residents should be thankful for the efforts of Gary St. Onge.
The October 15 City Council meeting was the last for St. Onge as Estevan’s mayor. He’s been the mayor since June of 2005; his seven-year, four-month term is the longest consecutive term for a mayor of this city since Harry Nicholson governed Estevan in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
It wasn’t an easy time when St. Onge took over, as he inherited a community on the cusp of a boom that had a significant infrastructure deficit. A lot of infrastructure work remains, but Council has been able to complete a number of important road repairs, while moving forward on water main replacements and the construction of a much-needed water reservoir for the northern half of the city.
St. Onge has played an important role in furthering the positive working relationship between the City and the RM of Estevan – a relationship that is the envy of many communities in the province. He was an effective chairman during Council meetings, as he usually kept the councillors in line and on topic. He has been a supporter of beautification efforts in the community. A number of residential and commercial developments happened during his time on Council, and he has welcomed private developers to tackle residential subdivisions in the city.
Spectra Place, of course, was started and completed during his tenure. The immaculate events centre wasn't solely due to St. Onge's efforts, but he was certainly a strong backer of a project that has garnered rave reviewers from all its visitors.
And he has been a strong voice for Estevan on the health care front, a role that he will continue as a member of the Sun Country Regional Health Authority.
There have been mistakes and controversies that he wishes he would have handled differently, but the positives from his tenure outweigh the negatives.
You can also be sure that he wishes that the City had been able to resurface more roads, replace more water mains, build more residential lots, complete the truck route and implement curbside recycling. But like any other level of government, municipal projects don't always proceed as quickly as they should.
St. Onge is leaving Council on his own terms – a luxury that few in politics have been afforded. He likely would have been re-elected if he would have run for mayor in upcoming civic election. But he has opted to leave Council now, so that he can devote more time to some of his other projects, and so that he can enjoy retirement. After seven-plus years as mayor, and 12 years on Council, he has earned the right to retire when he wants.
The next mayor of Estevan will face a lot of challenges, and one of them will be offering the same stewardship of the community that St. Onge has offered.