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Belleville mayor reflects on legacy, eight years in office

Mayor Neil Ellis at the Loyalist College mayoral debate, (QNet News files photo.) [1]

Outgoing Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis (here at a candidates’ debate at Loyalist College) has said he will seek the federal Liberal nomination in the new Bay of Quinte riding. QNet News file photo.

By Amanda Lorbetski [2]

BELLEVILLE – The city’s mayor [3] is coming to the end of his time in office and he’s reflecting on his legacy [4].

With eight years as Belleville mayor [5] under his belt, Neil Ellis [3] is looking forward. He’s announced that his last day in the mayor’s chair will be Dec. 1. After that, Ellis will be seeking the federal Liberal Party of Canada [6] nomination in the new Bay of Quinte riding [7] for the 2015 election [8].

“It’s been in the press and it’s probably been the worst-kept secret,” he said.  “I thought morally, the best way would be to let people know early. That way we could have somebody replace the mayor’s seat.”

As a Belleville [9] native, Ellis graduated from Centennial Secondary School [10] in 1981. His studies took him to the nation’s capital [11] where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in law and psychology [12], later completing his post-graduate studies in corporate governance at Hamilton’s McMaster University [13].

Ellis sits on a variety of municipal boards and committees including the Veridian Corporation board of directors [14] and the Belleville Police Services Board [15].  He has three children with his wife of over 25 years, Susan.

Looking back, Ellis said he’s honoured to be a part of city council [16]‘s vision. He reflected on the cornerstones of his political career, ranging from launching the Build Belleville [17] campaign to the Veterans Bridge [18] project.

For a longer excerpt of the interview, click here [4].

Belleville city councillor Pat Culhane [16] has worked with Ellis since they were both elected in December 2006.

The city couldn’t ask for a more focused leader, she said.

“He seems to be able to look ahead and know where he wants to go, precisely, and sort of how to steer the ship to get there.”

After eight years of working with Ellis, Culhane said she thinks Veterans Bridge is the project he will be most remembered for.

“All you have to do is drive over that bridge,” she said. “It’s absolutely perfect (as) an asset to the city. It seems to blend right in to the park. There was a fair bit of resistance originally. But he had taken those plans, they were kind of on the shelf for over 20 years, and just went forward with it.”

But her most memorable moment with the mayor didn’t take place in council chambers or even in the country. It was on a trip to one of Belleville’s three twin cities, Gunpo, South Korea [19], in 2007.

“It just had never occurred to me that I would find myself in Korea with such a great group of people, especially the mayor, and it was like being a movie star. We just had a wonderful time and we were so well-treated.”

Rod Bovay [20], director of engineering and development services for the City of Belleville, said Build Belleville is an initiative that the mayor should take credit for.

“Unfortunately I guess for Neil, when those projects are done in a couple years, he’s not going to be the mayor. So he won’t be there to cut the ribbon, but you know, I think it’ll be fair to say that a lot of them wouldn’t have happened without him being able to get the majority of council to support the projects.”

He added that this is only one of the numerous projects Ellis kick-started over his two terms in office.

“The biggest thing would probably be the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre [21]. You know, the expansion of that from two ice surfaces,” he said. “That might be the thing that Neil looks back at with the most pride when he’s all finished his career as mayor.”

Daryl Kramp [22] is the member of parliament for the current Prince Edward-Hastings riding [23]. If he decides to run in the new Bay of Quinte riding, and if Ellis is chosen as the federal Liberal candidate, the two will be running against each other in next year’s election. (Northumberland-Pine Ridge and Hastings-Lennox and Addington are two other new local ridings. Kramp told QNet News that he has not yet decided which riding he will be running in for the 2015 federal election.)

QNet News also asked Kramp about his thoughts on the legacy Ellis will leave behind when his mayoral term ends this year. Kramp preferred not to comment, saying it’s his job to treat all mayors in his riding equally.

Ellis said he is choosing to run for the Liberals [24] because of their openness and transparency with voters.

“It’s time for our MPs not to be whipped and, you know, have to drink the purple Kool-Aid,” he said. “That whole thing has to change.”

The public has just as much of a say in bringing about change as Ellis does, despite what level of government he may have a seat in, he said.

“The hair stands up on the back of my neck when somebody says I’m powerful.”



Belleville mayor reflects on legacy [4]

Build Belleville wants downtown revitalized [25]

Mayoralty-race update: Culhane, Thompson say they’re not in [26]

Prince Edward County mayor won’t seek re-election [27]

Kramp calls for senate scandal wrap-up [28]