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Mariposa celebrates “a decade of good government”

Newton Apple Seed  - 2014
"Honours and distinctions bestowed by a grateful nation"
(Orillia – June 2015) 

 “(If you) follow the advice of Henry David Thoreau - that government is best which governs least,” Mayor Dan Needles said in his 2015 State of Mariposa address. “By that measure, my term in office has been an extraordinary success.”

This year marks a decade since the appointment of the farmer, playwright, and Leacock Medalist as Mayor of Mariposa, a role largely fulfilled with a speech at the Annual Leacock Medal Awards Banquet and Gala. (Read about award winner by Terry Fallis)

In his June 2015 remarks, the Mayor reflected upon his “decade of good government” with an inventory of inactions and with a renewed commitment to not doing anything.  Needles assumed office in 2005, the year his predecessor, two-time Leacock Medalist Harry J. Boyle passed away at the age of 89.  Boyle, who served for twenty years as honorary Mayor, also took pride in his lack of service.

Although the current officeholder framed his report with imaginings, Needles did remind the audience of a memorable and real experience that marked the very first exercise of his official duties.  At the Leacock Medal banquet in 2005, a lightning strike at Geneva Park killed the microphone, the lights, and the air conditioning forcing an early termination of the event.  Attendees went home soaking in sweat, parched, and grateful that some speeches were left undelivered.

“Fourteen speeches died in the womb that night,” Needles as mayor lamented. “But everyone liked the new format - thus a new era began and we have been wrapping these things up by 9-30 ever since – this has been my sole reform as your mayor – and that was (the result of the lightning and) really an act of God – not me.”

Lake Couchiching - Geneva Park 
The mix of actual events with an imagined mayor and municipality lifts the banquet room just slightly off the ground.   It floats on an unusual blend of good will and humour.  Those sitting in at the tables are all in on the joke, laughing at themselves, and imagining, for just a few moments, that they are somewhere else back in time. 

“There is care, there is affection in this room,” Needles would say near the end of his speech.

The Edwardian, Anglo, central Ontario of Sunshine Sketches may not seem like the overarching model for modern Canada, but that ability to imagine your community – whatever form it takes - as something different, to place yourself with one foot in and one foot out, to see your quirks and your strengths, and to celebrate and smile collectively will always be an ideal worthy of kindly contemplation.

A few other 2015 banquet speakers made a nod to Mariposa, but the magic flowed most easily during the mythical mayor’s address.   The mayor must deliver it with all the solemnity and pretense of an early 20th century small town politician whether speaking of things not done or referencing actual events like the power failure that could have been lifted from the pages of Sunshine Sketches.

Another real world occurrence celebrated in the 2015 address was the recent selection of Dan Needles the 21st century writer for appointment to the Order of Canada.  In contrast with the requisite humility of Leacock Medal winners,   Needles, as mayor, referenced it as just his “most recent decoration”, and one of a string of “honours and distinctions bestowed upon me by a grateful nation.” With his approaching investiture at Rideau Hall, Needles had more fodder.   

“Imagine how disappointed I was to learn that I would not be giving a speech in Ottawa,” he said in mock dismay. He also described his shock at receiving the call from the Governor General’s office adding that he normally receives federal missives, instead, from “his (the GG's) chatty brother the Receiver General.”

In a closing aside as the man, not the mayor, Needles noted that the criterion for the national honour is “to build a better country” and that he was cheered that making people laugh would be considered worthy in this vein.

“And this is just one reason I prize my citizenship.”

While his June 6th, 2015 audience at Geneva Park did not overtly concede to the “good government” claim, their response to the Mayor’s speech suggests that, during his term in office, Needles has done his share in ensuring Mariposa has “good galas.” 
DBD   - June 2015

My Book visiting Old Brewery Bay that Day