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Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry takes leave of absence for surgery, recovery

Grand River Pedestrian Bridge in downtown Galt in Cambridge, Ont. Ahmad Fareed Khan / Global News

Kathryn McGarry says she will be taking a medical leave from her role as Cambridge Mayor for an unknown period of time to have necessary surgery and to recover from the operation.

She confirmed the news at Tuesday night’s council meeting while appointing Coun. Michael Mann as deputy mayor to fill in for her during her absence.

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McGarry told council she had spoken to members and made a plea for the council to approve her decision.

“I have seen the comments and the politicking that is happening,” McGarry said before she noted that she was not taking a voluntary leave or running for another office.

Initially, McGarry proposed Mann as deputy mayor until the end of council’s term, but councillors expressed concerns about the decision-making process behind the move, the need for the move, and the long-term ramifications of making the decision permanent.

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After some heated debate, council approved his new role until the end of the year or until council begins meeting in person once again — whichever occurs first.

“This was a decision I made to protect the community and to ensure business continuity,” McGarry said afterwards.

“I look forward to returning as soon as I possibly can, but while I am away, there is no option, even with the acting mayor schedule, to delegate signing authority to another member, to have a council member act during a state of emergency, to sit at regional council, the pandemic control group or EnergyPlus.”

At council, McGarry pointed to Mann’s background as deputy police chief as part of the reason she appointed him.

“He has extensive knowledge of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act due to his previous career,” McGarry said. “He is also vice-chair of the Shareholders Strategic Advisory Committee, dealing with some of the critical items in front of our EnergyPlus utility.”

Mann says the move was necessary to keep continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the Mayor’s imminent surgery and the current emergency climate we are in, it is pertinent and essential to have a backup plan so we can continue to serve the people of Cambridge regardless of what happens,” he said.

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“As deputy mayor, I will be chairing council meetings, potentially sitting at regional council and on various boards if the mayor is unable to.”

Read more: Cambridge hires security guards to patrol overnight in downtown Galt

As McGarry pleaded her case to council, she also spoke about how when her son died last month, there was no one else she could ask to fill in on a meeting — even on the day after her son Geordie had died.

“I attended that meeting while still reeling from the shock as there was literally no one who could have attended,” McGarry said.

“Instead, had we had a deputy mayor, I could have taken a day or two to grieve with my family,” she said.

“I have taken one full day off on a Sunday, the day of my son’s funeral.”

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