As the councillors took their seats to begin the first meeting of the newly-elected Township council on Monday afternoon, Councillor David Davis could be heard cheerfully warning his new neighbours that he requires a lot of room.
Davis now sits between Councillors Michelle Sparrow and Bob Long, the result of a change in the seating order made by Mayor Jack Froese, who decides who sits where.
After the last election, the novice mayor Froese decided to have the most experienced councillors sit closest to him, which meant Davis and Sparrow were the farthest away.
This time, Froese reversed the seating to put novice councillors Petrina Arnason, Blair Whitmarsh and Angie Quaale closest to him.
The afternoon meeting began with the swearing-in of the new council, an quick, informal affair that saw the mayor and councillors read their oaths while seated at their desks, then adjourn for a closed-door in-camera session, followed by an hour-long public meeting on a number of issues that required decisions.
The simultaneous reading of the oath by the eight councillors was a little ragged, leading veteran councillor Long to call it a “Babylon.”
The evening meeting, which repeated the swearing-in ceremony, was far more formal, with a piper and an honour guard leading council members into the chambers to be sworn in by Judge Melissa Gillespie.
Members of the Kwantlen First Nation sang a traditional song (pictured).
During the inaugural comments, Councillor Kim Richter noted the new council had the highest percentage of women in Langley history and predicted there would be more battles over the pace of development in the Township, saying “new growth does not pay for itself.”
Councillor Charlie Fox cracked a joke about the new seating arrangement, saying “it looks like the longer you serve, the farther away you get from the mayor.”
Arnason talked about her late mother Muriel, the first woman to serve on council, calling her a “personal touchstone.” Muriel Arnason passed away seven years (to the day) before her daughter’s inauguration.
Blair Whitmarsh talked about watching his children grow up in Langley and how he was excited to shape the future of their community.
Angie Quaale did fine until she began to thank her father, when she teared up and needed a moment to compose herself.
Quaale went on to promise that she would continue to hold community meetings to get public input.
Sparrow also got a little choked up, in her case when she was thanking defeated councillors Bev Dornan, Grant Ward and Steve Ferguson for their service.
Quaale handed Sparrow a tissue.
Then it was Davis’ turn.
He asked for the whole box of tissues, then wordlessly passed it to Long, who mimed dabbing at his eyes.
A then-serious Davis predicted there would be times when his views and views of some residents would clash, that “there will be times when we will agree and we will not agree, but I will always listen.”
Long thanked people who didn’t vote for him because they were “participating in the process.”
Froese singled out defeated councillor Ward, who was in the audience for the evening ceremony, telling Ward that he, along with Dornan and Ferguson have all “left a mark on this community.”
Ward (pictured) rose from his seat to the applause of the audience.
Froese went on to say it was clear that the process of public consultation in Langley needed improving, a reference to the controversies over development in Fort Langley and Brookswood, and that he would be moving to create a “task force on public engagement” to see how to make it better.
The other two issues Froese identified were public safety, specifically crime, and transportation, like the need for better public transit.