Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald made history Wednesday night, becoming the first woman ever elected to the position of Essex County Warden.
Following her election to the highest municipal office in the county, council members also elected Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti to assume the role of deputy principal.
MacDonald, who held back tears as she signed her statement, said the growth of diversity around the council table is a sign of a “memorable” time in Essex County.
“I am humbled and honored by it,” she said. “It makes me emotional. It feels a bit like a dream. It’s on your shoulders. I’m excited.”
“The diversity, it shows that people are open. Just the fact that we have such a diverse table, and that my colleagues were willing to vote as well, means a lot to me.”
MacDonald and Bachetti, like the rest of the county council, will hold office for four years.
The mayors and deputy mayors of seven municipalities — Amherstburg, Essex, Kingsville, Lakeshore, LaSalle, Leamington and Tecumseh — are responsible for electing a director and deputy director.
The positions were chosen by secret ballot at Wednesday’s meeting. The actual number of votes has not been disclosed and the ballots are destroyed after the election.
Council members could nominate themselves for the positions at the beginning of the meeting. But the game was drafted for Wednesday’s meeting.
MacDonald and Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara both announced earlier this month that they would be running for first place.
McNamara has served as county director since 2018. He also served as deputy director from 2000 to 2003 and from 2010 to 2014. He was lauded in the recent election to a sixth term as mayor of Tecumseh, making him the longest-serving mayor in Essex County. .
Bachetti and LaSalle Mayor Crystal Meloche, who made history when she was hailed as her city’s first female mayor, also previously announced their intention to become deputy principal.
No other councilors put forward their names for either job on Wednesday.
Bachetti said after his victory on Wednesday that a major focus will be on road and infrastructure work for projects including the new regional hospital and EV battery factory.
“I feel humbled,” he said. “Humbled when you are chosen by your peers to serve in a new role as Deputy Director. That is a position that represents the entire region. So I look forward to working with Director MacDonald and building partnerships with the City of Windsor, our neighboring community, and trying to benefit the entire region.
MacDonald, Leamington’s first female mayor in 67 years, was re-elected to a second term in that seat last month with 53 percent of the vote.
Now also the head of the county council, she said her focus will be on developing a strategic plan and promoting more cooperation in the municipality.
“Get a map of where we’re going in the next four years,” MacDonald said. “I think that will bring us all together. Take the opportunity to develop a strategic plan and see what we want to achieve as a group. I think that will set the tone. But it also makes people more involved.”