Photo courtesy of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association.

Chatham-Kent has a new voice at the provincial table.

At this week’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association, or ROMA conference, Jamie McGrail was elected to the ROMA Board of Directors for Zone 1, which covers southwestern Ontario to just east of London.

McGrail, in her second term representing Ward Four-North Kent locally, was running against six other candidates, including Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy, Central Elgin Mayor Andrew Sloan, and North Middlesex Councillor Bill Irwin.

The goal of the board is to work collaboratively with municipalities across Ontario and ensure that provincial funding, policies and programs consider rural perspectives and unique challenges.

The rural arm of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, ROMA advocates for policies and programs that will help build thriving rural Ontario communities.

Meantime, the Chatham-Kent contingent is soaking in as much information as they can at the conference.

The conference theme, “Breaking New Ground” reflects ROMA’s advocacy work on priorities such as attainable housing and economic growth.

Wallaceburg councillors Aaron Hall and Carmen McGregor are joined by Michael Bondy, Amy Finn, and Jamie McGrail for meetings with officials from various provincial ministries.

Hall says one of the main purposes of the conference is to learn. One of the speakers addressed the issue of truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“With Walpole Island and Moraviantown in Chatham-Kent, it’s a big part of our community so it’s good to learn more about that,” Hall says. “He focused on the “right relations” which focused on four themes: respect, responsibility, relevance, and reciprocity. Really good information that we can take back home and continue to learn.”

The conference offers newly elected and returning municipal officials the chance to foster partnerships and relationships across the sector, and advocate for change.  Along with the conference program, municipal staff and officials have had the opportunity to take part in hundreds of municipal delegation meetings with provincial ministries. Provincial ministers also took questions from municipal officials in an open forum.

“Councillor McGregor attended one (session) about sustaining a healthy rural community,” Hall says. “Another one I (was) really interested in is how to attract housing developments to rural Ontario. Good things that we can add to our tool belt. Any way that we can learn more and think of new strategies and new ways to attract more growth and more development is definitely a worthwhile experience.”

The three-day conference wraps up later today.