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On Being Mayor Today

by Mayor Eddie Francis

There’s one inescapable element that faces anyone who has the honour of being chosen Mayor of Windsor and that’s responsibility.

Even though the proportions of the job are vastly different between now and 1854, when the hamlet across the river from Detroit officially became the incorporated Village of Windsor, many of the challenges which faced our first Mayor, Samuel Macdonnell and his Council, are not all that much different in principle from those that face the Mayor and Council of the City of Windsor in the year 2004.

Because of geography, our growth is confined to three points of the compass instead of four. The Detroit River prevents us from extending ourselves northward, and the river both divides us from Detroit and Southeastern Michigan and links us to them.

At the same time, the river is a natural boundary, a connection for transport and communication, and sometimes, now as even then, 150 years ago, an inspiration for planning and concern.

Perhaps that’s as it should be.

The presence of the Detroit River also emphasizes that there’s a difference between the people of the United States of America and the people of what we now call Canada South. This helps us be proud of our similarities but mindful of our differences.

Long ago we became each other’s best friends and most active trading partners.

It was that way when Mayor Samuel Macdonnell took his oath of office; it was still that way when I had the same privilege of swearing my oath in December of 2003.

Some of the parallels between our personal histories are intriguing.

We were both relatively young when we were elected to Council and then to the position of Mayor; both of us had recently become lawyers; both of us believed in the potential of Windsor and its neighbouring communities; and both of us realized that our communities have the potential to be important and in fact, vital to the social and economic progress of a free North America and a free world.

Often, we’ve expressed this in similar ways.

Mayor Macdonnell was inspirational in the early development of his community and emphatic about the need to connect Windsor not only to Detroit but to the rest of Canada.

He did this through property acquisition and development, and promotion of roadways which led to other regions of our vast nation. Samuel Macdonell became Mayor in the same year in which the railway came to the village: 1854.

Now, in the first year of my own term as Mayor, we are also actively pursing additional and exciting transport and communication measures to join Windsor not only with Detroit and Southeastern Michigan but with Canada and the entire world.

The marketplace for our products and services has expanded vastly; but the intent of the measures taken by the Windsor of 1854 and 2004 are essentially the same: to sell and buy and interact with others.

So it is with our friendship with our neighbours to the north.

When President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated only a few days after the Union victory in 1865, it was proclaimed that businesses in Windsor should close on the day of the President’s funeral, and that as many Windsorites who could, should attend memorial services for the slain President in Detroit.

In return, Detroiters flew the Union Jack shortly afterward in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s birthday.

Such were the healing gestures which were encouraged by Samuel Macdonnell and his colleagues before Windsor became a Town and then a City.

In our new generation, no one has to be reminded of the strengthened bonds of fellowship between our communities and nations through two World Wars, other conflicts and peacekeeping assignments, and most recently, the terrorist atrocities of September 11th, 2001 and beyond.

So it is a great honour to follow in the footsteps of Mayor Macdonnell; to note both the similarities and the contrasts between his time and ours; and to take pride in the traditions which are those of generations which are so far separated by time, but which share so much in determination, destiny and faith in one another and in the future of our community, then and now.

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