Selwyn Township Mayor Mary Smith, the deputy warden of Peterborough County, said her Facebook page has been crammed with messages this week from people wanting to thank her for 20 years in office.
The deluge of messages came after she announced on Wednesday that she won’t seek re-election in the municipal race in October.
She said she’s enjoyed hearing from so many well-wishers since making her announcement.
“It’s been fun – Facebook’s gone crazy!” she said.
Smith, 65, first took office in 1998 with Lakefield council as deputy reeve.
In 2001 she was elected to the newly created Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield Township council following amalgamation.
She became mayor in 2010 and the township was renamed as Selwyn Township in 2012.
She is in her second year as deputy warden for Peterborough County council.
Smith never lost an election, and she’s been an early adopter of technology: no candidate for any municipal office in the Peterborough area had a personal website before she did in the 1997 election.
She’s also promoted a closer relationship with the neighbouring Curve Lake First Nation: since 2011, Selwyn Township council has occasionally held joint municipal meetings with the band council.
Lately another neighbouring municipality, Trent Lakes, has been joining those meetings too. “That’s something I’m proud we were able to start,” Smith said.
Smith grew up on a dairy farm in Emily Township. She is the fourth generation of the Ashmore family to serve in municipal politics.
Smith met her husband Al at University of Waterloo. They moved to Lakefield in 1976, when he got a job teaching math and computer science at Lakefield Secondary School.
While raising two daughters and one son, Smith volunteered a lot.
Her community work impressed Deputy Reeve John Boyko; when he decided to retire in 1997, he urged Smith to run to replace him.
As an elected official, Smith said she learned a lot about policing and emergency services. She was a chairwoman of the Peterborough-Lakefield Police Services Board and was the township’s representative on the board for the then amalgamated Peterborough-Lakefield police force from 2001 to 2015.
Smith was also a calendar girl: after a major flood in Peterborough in 2004, she joined a group of well-known local women who posed nude (with strategically placed objects) for portraits.
The calendar they made, titled The Age of Beauty, generated $197,476 for flood relief in Peterborough, as well as for Asian tsunami relief and for the United Way of Peterborough.
Although some of the calendar girls have since died – Erica Cherney, for instance – the rest of the women remain close.
“We’re all still friends,” said Smith. “The calendar was a great tonic for the community at a time when people were very stressed…. It was a positive that came out of a negative.”
Smith said her husband has been retired for about nine years now and she’s looking forward to having more time to travel with him.
She’s is also an avid cross-country skier on the Kawartha Nordic trails and she loves to swim and hike – all activities she will continue to pursue in retirement.
Smith said one of the keys to her success over the years is to be “strategic” in how you spend your energy.
“I don’t believe in wasting my energy – you only have so much of it.”