Innisfil is beloved for its balance of urban and rural, and Ward 1 Coun. Kevin Eisses prides himself on being the voice of the rural on town council.
That passion for speaking on behalf of the rural and agricultural side of Innisfil is a big part of why Eisses will seek re-election this fall as his first term on council comes to an end.
“My reasons for running are still the same as they were originally, and that’s to represent the rural part of Innisfil,” he explained. “I thought it was interesting when as a council we went through strategic planning, and we looked over what residents like about Innisfil and it all came down to them loving that mix of rural and urban. The residents appreciate that aspect of the area, but the business of the town is quite focused on the urban, so I think that’s where I have influence as a councillor who can bring the rural issues forward.
“As a farmer, I have a lot of experience in that as far as knowing the people who are on the rural side and knowing the issues. I have a good understanding of the rural and when there’s decisions to be made with rural vs. urban, I can provide that rural point of view—whether with traffic regarding agricultural equipment or backyard chickens or fireworks. There’s two sides to every perspective whether you’re in downtown Alcona or out on Sixth Line.”
With his first term on council wrapping up in a few months, Eisses points to the experience he’s gained over the last four years as a motivating factor to run again.
"Being in leadership is difficult and when I first ran, I didn’t know all of what was involved,” he said. “I feel like I’ve learned how municipal governments work and it takes a lot of councillors, including myself, a couple years to learn how to be effective. Because I’ve gone through that learning curve, I think I can be even more effective this term.
"There will be turnover as a few councillors have decided not to run, which encouraged me to run as well because we want to keep some consistency from one term to the next.”
The way the council handled the COVID-19 pandemic is the most memorable aspect of his first term on council and Eisses thinks it shows just what can be accomplished when leadership is on the same page.
“I think our council stepped forward and we established the Helping Hands Committee where a portion of our salaries went into a pool and we were able to get that money to some of the residents in need,” he said. “I was able to sit on that committee and I was proud our council stepped up to help the residents deal with the issues that were brought on by COVID.
“We did a good job managing the finances through that and kept taxes as low as we could. There’s a balance with that, and it was interesting to go through it and try to achieve the balance. When we look back on this council, it will be one that’s remembered for working together very well and having a real team atmosphere to it. When we disagreed on issues, we debated effectively but were respectful.”
Two motions stick out most to Eisses as his proudest individual moments during his first term as a councillor.
“I brought forward a motion to establish the Innisfil Sports Hall of Fame,” he said. “That’s something that’s just at the beginning and as community becomes more important, we can recognize those residents who go above and beyond on the recreation side. I also brought forward amendments to the fireworks by-law and I think that was important to residents. It’s about balance, there’s a balance for people to enjoy fireworks at certain times of the year, but not to abuse them.”
As he gears up to potentially represent Ward 1 for another four years, Eisses described Innisfil as being in a pivotal situation with the direction it goes as it grows.
“One resident said to me the other day that they felt like Innisfil is a teenager and it’s starting to grow up and it’s going through growing pains with development,” he said. “This next term is going to be really important for keeping things residents love about Innisfil—that rural/urban mix—and to have a town that’s well planned.
"From the rural side of things, that’s what everyone wants. Us farmers want to do what we do and provide food for our country, and we just want the town to be run well. I’ve seen a lot of changes and we want to make Innisfil even better as we move forward. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Having lived in Innisfil his whole life and as an owner and operator of a farm in the town, Eisses has a love for getting to know the community.
“The thing I enjoy the most about being a councillor is going to business openings and going to community celebrations—whether it’s the Canada Day Parade or Santa Claus Parade,” he said. “It’s the fact that Innisfil still has that small-town community feel as we see the changes around us and it’s important to keep that. For me it’s important to continue to build that community feel as we grow and change and to be a part of doing that is exciting.”