Pembroke – A woman who has spent more than half of her life in municipal politics and always put the taxpayers of her municipality and Renfrew County first was honoured by her colleagues last Wednesday when she attended her last meeting of Renfrew County council.

Janice Tiedje, who was reeve of Hagarty and Richards Township for 15 years and then mayor of Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards after the township and village joined in 2000, was honoured for her 37 years of municipal leadership at home and in the county. Next to former Laurentian Valley Township Reeve Jack Wilson, who retired several years ago, Mayor Tiedje is one of the longest serving members on county council.

Outgoing Renfrew County Warden Debbie Robinson, who first met Mayor Tiedje when she was a newspaper reporter, said Mayor Tiedje certainly leaves an impression at the county level.

Councillor Bob Sweet, outgoing mayor of Petawawa and long-time colleague of Mayor Tiedje, said she has seen a lot of changes over the years, including what has happened in county business.

He said when she was county warden in 2007 and 2008, he travelled with her all over the county in his capacity as chair of Development and Property. She would later nominate Mayor Sweet for warden.

“You could always rely on Janice and as you probably have seen, to be very to the point,” he said.

Coun. Sweet said she will be missed.

“Im sure  the election was not what you thought it would be,” he said of her defeat at the polls October 24, adding 37 years is something to be very proud about for a job well done. 

Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said when he first arrived at county council after being elected mayor in Greater Madawaska Township in 2006, the first phone call he received was from Mayor Tiedje.

“She talked about the county and the important things we did here,” he said. “I enjoyed working with her when she was warden and again when I was warden. I chose Janice as my deputy warden for a number of reasons, the most important was I needed her experience.

“She was very well connected across all of Renfrew County, into the province. I always admired her tenaciousness, and I don’t mean that in a negative way, her tenaciousness with an issue. She is very to the point, and I always appreciated that team effort.”

In her role as Chair of Health and warden, Reeve Emon said he liked the empathy, understanding and kindness she showed to the residents in the county’s long-term facilities.

“She recognized that was their community and we were a guest. I really enjoyed watching her interact with them.”

He also admired Mayor Tiedje for sharing over the years some of her own personal struggles.

“I admired her strength and her ability to bounce back and get up tomorrow and take on the world,” he said.

No One As Committed

Mike Nolan, Chief of the county’s Paramedic Service, said he had never had a chair of the Health Committee as passionate, diligent and as committed to the community as Mayor Tiedje has been.

“You have been my chair longer than anyone else in my time at the county,” he said, adding if Shelley Sheedy, former director of long-term care was present, “she would agree that the breakfast meetings we had, the tears we have shared, the experiences that we were able to translate into action in the community, based upon your own personal experiences but also based upon what you heard from residents across the county, translated into some very real things.”

Chief Nolan said the entire public access to the defibrillators program in the county is to her credit.

“The fact we moved those defibrillators out from behind desks and buildings and are now hanging on the outside wall of buildings and in heated cabinets are because of Janice, and much of the community paramedic program and its success is owed to Janice’s just get it done attitude,” he said.

“I will always remember, and I will speak on Shelley’s behalf as well, because Janice made us part of her family. We’ve been to your house, we’ve cared for you and your loved ones and at the same time only in a very small way been able to reciprocate your passion, your dedication and your commitment to this community.

“And for that I want to thank you for being an incredibly strong supporter, an incredibly competent and capable chair and someone who we’ve had the privilege of turning your vision into action over the years.”

Outstanding Contributions

Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue, current chair of the Health Services committee,

 expressed his enormous gratitude to Mayor Tiedje for her outstanding contributions. He also noted it was quite fascinating that she started her county political career in the old county building at 169 William Street in Pembroke and “that thread is now ending.”

“I have to acknowledge Janice’s passion,” he continued. “It is invigorating to have engaged in vigorous debate with Janice here in this room. To disagree without being disagreeable is terribly important in this room.”

Describing her journey as an outstanding career, he said he could not imagine how many lives she has touched, whether in her community or in her capacity as the chair of health, which includes long-term care residents and the paramedic service.

“I scarcely think that there is anyone in Renfrew County who has not at one time, or another been affected by Janice,” Mayor Donohue said. “I have to wonder if she has established a record with her incredible contribution to the county.”

North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose expressed his thanks and appreciation to Mayor Tiedje for her support as a neighbour, adding when he first got into politics her support was very important. “The leadership she showed in the stick-to-itness and tenacity she showed in getting that Bonnechere River Water Management Plan changed. It was a benefit not only to residents of Killaloe, Hagarty and Rchards but also North Algona Wilberforce and Bonnechere Valley in helping to mitigate some of those flooding concerns.”

Mayor Jed Reinwald of Laurentian Hills has sat next to Mayor Tiedje for his eight years at county council. He said when he first arrived at county, he was a bit lost with what was taking on and Mayor Tiedje leaned over and said “just stick with it and I’ll pull you through.

“During one conversation that I didn’t quite understand what was going on, I leaned over to Janice and asked what was going on. She replied, ‘Aww, that’s a pile of BS don’t worry about it’. Janice was always a straight shooter.”

Life Goes On

Although Mayor Tiedje sometimes paid the price for her strong convictions at county council, by being ostracized from the more important committees by the warden of the day, she always put the taxpayers of her municipality and the county first. She was also gracious in responding to the unexpected tribute.

“I have enjoyed my 37 years here,” she said in  response to the speakers. “We’ve gone through a lot of transitions, a lot of changes. When I started there were 36 of us. We had so many discussions and disagreements that often we saw people standing up wanting to fight.

“Although I wasn’t one of those, I decided in my career that I would fight for my township.”

Speaking of the result of the October 24th election, she said she didn’t think it was a loss.

“I think what it has done for me is it has kicked me out because I may have never decided to retire,” she said. “I am going to enjoy that retirement.”

She plans to work for her husband’s (Dr. Henry Tiedje) practice and spend more time with her family. “My three grandsons always asked me, ‘why grandma do you always have to go to meetings’?”

Mayor Tiedje said she has made many wonderful friends over the years at county and singled out the two councillors who sit to her left and right: Mayor Tom Peckett of McNab/Braeside and Mayor Reinwald – both whom she described as gentlemen to the core.

“I wish you the very best. I have had lots of experiences here and made a lot of friends,” she said.

She also spoke about 2017 when she was involved in a serious highway crash,  lost her Golden Lake home to fire including her two Collies, her husband passed away and some of the worst flooding in history occurred on the Bonnechere River watershed.

“Chief Nolan and Shelley called me and asked what they could do to help,” she said. “They offered to come and make chili.  That’s something that doesn’t happen in every corporation.”

Mayor Tiedje reminded council about her passion for the county and implored them to consider the taxpayers of Renfrew County in their decisions “because that is all that I ever did. I tried to represent my township and the county wherever I went.

“I’m moving on. I know I have a good life ahead of me. I’m still young enough to do a lot of things and I am going to. My political career is ending and that’s not a bad thing. I am going to have more time for Noah, Owen and Caleb, my three grandsons, and my husband, (Henry).

“When I lost he came over and hugged me and said, ‘Janice, I don’t want to say this but this is a good thing. I am going to have more of you to myself’.”

Mayor Tiedje also paid tribute to county staff.

“I came a long time ago and we’ve gone through a lot of staff since I’ve come,” she said. “I am sure some of you wanted to kick me many times but just remember I’m a passionate woman. I believe in my taxpayers, and  I believe in my township and the County of  Renfrew.

KHR A Leader In Many Ways

Following the county formalities, Mayor Tiedje congratulated the new council in KHR, noting there are going to be many issues coming to the table, and she wished them the best in dealing with them.

She expressed her thanks to all the residents of KHR for all the support she received over 37 years.

“It’s been a pleasure,” she remarked. “And there is life after politics, and I am looking forward to it.”

She also expressed her thanks to the media for everything it has done for the township, noting without the press the township could not have gotten its message out.

She paid special thanks to retiring councillors Debbie Peplinskie, Stanley Pecoskie and John Jeffrey for the many years of service they gave to the municipality. They chose to retire from council.

“They need to be thanked by all. They really gave their all, were great councillors and I’m sure the table will miss them,” she said.

Mayor Tiedje is optimistic great things will continue to happen in the township, citing the fact it has an excellent staff and three returning councillors with lots of experience who will be able to assist the newly elected members.

“I hope they continue to move forward,” she stated. “We have been the first in many issues in Ontario. In Renfrew County we were the first to do recycling. We got that Bonnechere River Water Management Plan done. Those are important issues that the taxpayers need to know how progressive our township is.”

The mayoral race in KHR was predicted as a close contest with many people saying it was time for a change.

“I appreciate that,” she said. “After 37 years  I guess they were tired of looking at my face. Sometimes change is good and so I wish that is the case for those who voted for that change.”

Will there be a return to municipal politics in the future?

“You never know,” Mayor Tiedje said. “Never say never.”