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Norma Leighfield, reeve

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Norma Leighfield, reeve
First name Norma
Last name Leighfield
Age 60
Date of birth November 24, 1918
Community Paris


Story

This interview has been contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. It was taken in August, 1979, by a volunteer for the Paris Public Library.

Interview

Q: What is your family background and when did you come to Paris?

A: We came to Paris about 19 years ago. I was born in Toronto, raised in Sault Ste. Marie and that is where I was married. We have moved around many times since then.

Q: What brought you to Paris?

A: Ted was hired as the Associate Director at Five Oaks. So that's why we came to Paris. And we lived in town because when we came here there was no residence for us at Five Oaks that was large enough for us. The previous directors had all been unmarried people. So when we came, we had 5 children. We rented a house in the interval and moved here and have lived here ever since.

Q: How did you get involved in Town government?

A: Well, I guess it goes back a little before that. Our daughter Elaine had worked at the Library all the time she was in high-school - evenings and Saturdays. She and Sheila Megs had been there at the same time and they were getting ready to go to Universety and she came home one day and she said, "Mother, they are going to look for a woman at the Library. They decided they are not going to look for pages but are going to hire a woman. Do you know anyone?" I got thinking about it and thought "Why can't I do that job?" So when she came home the next time, I suggested it to her and she said, "That's a good idea." She suggested it to Mrs. Muir who was the Librarian at the time and everyone seemed to be in favour so I started in the fall and I worked there for 6 1/2 years. Then I thought it was time to change. I like it here but I'm not going to keep doing this for the rest of my life. So I quit the end of June. We had done alot of talking about politics in the meantime at the Library among the staff and they said to me "Why don't you run?" I thought "Oh that is kind of a crazy idea." Nothing more was said about it until that fall when there was a Federal Election and when Ted and I went over vote one of my neighbours met me over at the polling booths and he said, "I would like to suggest to you that you run for municipal politics". He said "I'd like to propose your name for mayor." I said. "You're out of your mind. I've never even been on council." I came home and I got thinking about it and I thought "Well I've had this suggestion from 2 different lots of people. Maybe I should run." So we talked here at home and I was particularly concerned about our 2 youngest sons who were in grade 13 at the time. I didn't know how they would feel with thier mother running for politics. Suppose if I ran and got beaten you know, how would they feel about this. They both suggested that they would be very happy if I did and not only that, they felt that all the kids in grades 12 and 13 who could possibly vote for me would. So I decided to run for Councillor-at-large and for a couple of reasons. First, you represent the whole town and in the second place I thought with my contacts at the Library having been there so long that people all over town would know me, so perhaps I would have a better chance at being elected. So I ran against 6 others. I was the only woman. There were 2 to be elected and I headed the polls as far as the Councillor-at -large polls were concerned. That was in Dec. of 1972 and I haven't had to run since. I've been in by acclamation each time. I've moved up. I was Councillor-at-large for 2 years and then Mr. Ford decided that he would not run again so I decided I would run as deputy-reeve. I stayed in that position for 2 years.Then I told Joe Bradbury this year that if he wasn't going to run for mayor it wasn't going to make any difference because I'm going to run for reeve. So he decided maybe he better run for mayor so I ran for reeve and got in by acclamation and have been there ever since.

Q: What do your duties consist of as Reeve?

A: Well, you are really the Deputy Mayor. If the Mayor is away you are in charge. Now you are on alot of Committees but you are not on because you are reeve, you are on because you are put into those different Committees. Usually the Reeve is Chairman of Works which seems rather strange because you look after the roads, the sewers and all this sort of thing. But I felt that if I wasn't Chairman of Work£ they'd think that a woman couldn't do that and I just wanted to show them that a woman could do that so that if they are going to change it it is going to be another year - it wasn't going to be the I was Reeve. So when it came time for nominations to the Committees I said "That is the one I want." I think as far as I know I've done a good job.

The other thing, when you run for Reeve or Deputy-Reeve you are automatically on the County Council - they are the 2 people on Town Council who are. And as a member of County Council you are on a great number of Committees, but it has nothing to do with being Reeve - you are actually a councillor when you are on the other Council.

Q: What is the relationship between the Town and the County? Is is a good relationship or is there some friction?

A: In the years that I've been on there has never been any difficulty. Perhaps in the past there has been, many years ago. But as far as I know there is a really good relationship. Certainly we don't want to see anything happen to the County relationship.

Q: Are the County and the Town at loggerheads with the City of Brantford?

A: Yes, very much so.

Q: What is the problem there? Is it a matter of annexation between the City and the County?

A: That is partly it. I think Brantford wants control - they would like to control everyting. The more they take from the County the less viable the County will be. They (Brantford) would like to have a Region and then of course they would be the seat of the Region and have control.

Q: Could you tell us about your term as-.Councillor-at-large and some of your concerns at that time?

A: I think one of the things that was started when I was Councillor-at-large was the Co-op. Nursery. I think I was really responsible for the initial business of getting it in operation. Not that I did anything as far as actually setting it up but there had been a report come out from the Brant Social Development Council and they strongly recommended that there shoud be some form of nursery in Paris, I remember Mr. Ford saying to me, "If you bring this up at Council they will expect you to do something about it. So if you don't want to do anyting about it don't say anything." And I thought "Isn't that what I'm here for?" ^read the report and suggested to Council that perhaps we should look into this. They said,"Fine, go ahead but don't spend any money." So I put an article in the Paris Star and put a couple posters up. We had 50 women turn out for the first meeting. From then on the thing just snowballed and we went ahead and I think we've had a very successful Co-op, program.

Q: What kind of expansion do you see for Paris? Do you see it becoming a bedroom community for Brantford or expanding its industrial base?

A: I hope we won't grow too large. I hope that we won't grow beyond 10,000 people. I really don't see any necessity for it. Larger isn't necessarily better at all but I hope we don't become just a bedroom town. I hope we have small industries. I hope we never have large industry like a Ford plant come in because being brought up in Sault Ste. Marie where there are 2 major industries I know what happens to the place if they go on strike or for some reason the plant has to shut down. So I would hope that we would have small industries of 50 - 100 people so that if one has to close up your town isn't devestated.

Q: Do you think that sometime in the future the core of the town will be moved because of flood or redevelopment?

A: Well it is difficult to know. The present Council has tried to see that the downtown stays the way it is. Except improved but we certainly don't intend to allow any large shopping malls at either end of town because as soon as you do that, that is the end of your downtown core. One of the problems that I do see are the stores on the east side of Grand River St. I do think they are not in good condition. And if anything happens to 2 or 3 of them I think that whole side would go. If that happens there would probably be no alternative but to move the whole thing to either end of town.

Q: Do you think it will take such a crisis to move the merchants out of that area?

A: Yes, I think some of them would be glad to move but if you stop to think about it they have alot of money tied up in those buildings. Now I don't expect that they could sell the buildings and get anything for them but on the other hand if you vacated them and had to move and buy or rent someplace else it would take alot of money and I don't know who-certainly the Town could not afford to give them what their buildings would be worth. Whether in the future, federal and provincial governments plus the Town would give them grants to do that sort of thing. It would be nice to have that whole area cleared out and have a big park there. But I don't think I'll see that in my day, unless there is some crisis or devestation.

Q: Is there a difference between Deputy-Reeve and Reeve?

A: It is just a matter of rank. The Deputy-Reeve is the assistant to the Reeve as the Reeve is the assistant to the mayor. At County Council I have 2 votes whereas the deputy-reeve has 1. The reason I have 2 votes is because of our population. For a population over 5000 the Town gets 3 votes on Council so I have 2 of those votes.

Q: Do you see a woman as mayor of Paris?

A: Yes. I'm going to run. Unless something happens between now and the next election. At the next election I intend to run for mayor - now I may not make it so maybe there won't be a woman mayor.

Q: Is there some particular project that you would like to attempt if you became mayor?

A: I think one big concern that I have and I've been working very quietly on this for a long time. I am concerned with more of the social aspect in town. I've had a Committee working on this for a long time. We are going to have a student working full time in Paris starting in Sept.

The first thing we will be working on will be a catalogue - a brochure of all the different activities that are in town. This will be handed out to people when they come to town and they'll know there is a Lion's Club etc. and all the things that are available and where to go, who to get in touch with. Then we'll move from there to set up some groups - I really think we should have a downtown office so if people need information about social services or welfare or Family Service Bureau they can go and get information. Perhaps they would get all the information they needed and wouldn't have to go any further than that. Right now, if you need any sort of help you have to go to Brantford. That's fine for me, I can jump in the car and go anytime I want. But I've seen the day I've had 2 or 3 kids and it wasn't easy. What if a person doesn't drive? They have to take the bus, take their kids with them, or arrange for a baby-sitter. Sometimes it is easier not to be bothered. So whether I become mayor or not I'm still working on this and I hope the day will come when we can do something in this area: We've had a group working on this for 2 years now made up of all different social service organizations: Family Service Bureau, Addiction Research Foundation, Ministerial, Police, Education.

One thing you didn't ask me about was my term as Warden of Brant County last year. First woman warden in 126 years.

Q: What does that office entail?

A: The Warden is chairman of the Brant County Council. The Warden represents the Council at all kinds of functions, various committees. It is a 1 year term. I was very pleased. There have only been 2 women on County Council. Pearl Finlayson and I both ran for Council the first year. You run in your own Council. We were both elected so we went to County Council together. She just stayed on for 2 terms and I decided to run again. She was on as deputy-reeve and then reeve. She decided not to seek re-election last time, so I'm the only woman on council.

Q: Could we have your husband's name and birthdate, your birthdate and the names of your children?

A: My husband's name is William Edward Frederick Leighfield. His birthdate is Dec. 11, 1915. My birthdate is Nov. 24,1918. We have a son William Edward born Nov.18,1942, Kenneth Thomas born July 11,1944, Norama Elaine born Oct. 16,1946, Christopher Paul born Oct.16,1942 and Stephen Frederick born June 22,1954. We have 4 grandchildren. Four of our children are married. Stephen is not married.

Q: Is your husband still the Administrator at Five Oaks?

A: No, he hasn't been there for 11 years. He is a teacher at Conestoga College.

Q: (Mr. Leighfield) What do you teach at Conestoga?

Mr. Leighfield: Well I try to teach people in the first place. We are trying to help them learn. I don't know if there is such a thing as teaching, I think people learn - we try to provide conditions in which they can learn. You can share information sometimes that you've gathered through experience or reading. The area I'm teaching in is the Applied Arts Division in Humanities and Social Sciences Department. Roughly within that in the areas of Sociology and Psychology. The courses I teach are all electives. One is called "Understanding Human Behaviour": it is a very open and broad topic. Virtually anything comes within the scope of human behaviour.

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