Mississauga’s Hurricane watch has ended.
Hazel McCallion, the city’s iconic mayor, removed the chain of office from around her shoulders for the last time following her final council meeting Wednesday.
At the conclusion of a short and emotional goodbye statement, McCallion, who has sat at the city’s helm since 1978, gingerly lifted the ceremonial garment from her shoulders and handed it to city clerk Crystal Greer.
“Madame clerk, I’d like to turn it over to you, because it was a clerk that placed it on my shoulders (36) years ago,” said McCallion, 93, who minutes before had displayed a rare bit of visible emotion, her voice cracking to the point of being barely audible as she spoke during her final moments at the head of Mississauga’s pillared council chamber.
“No one person can take credit for what Mississauga has accomplished … It is a team approach and it has been (that way) for years and years and years.”
In closing, McCallion gave thanks to council members, city staff and residents for thrusting Mississauga’s development forward.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said.
The day also drew numerous speakers. Mississauga Board of Trade president Sheldon Leiba spoke of McCallion being Mississauga’s “No. 1 ambassador” before presenting her with a certificate of lifetime membership. United Way of Peel Region president Shelley White called McCallion a “vanguard” who sees the link between healthy, creative people and a robust economy.
And Ron Lenyk, CEO of Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre, credited McCallion with giving the city’s residents “the greatest gift anyone can give … your time.”
Young vocalist Elise Mariah sang a tribute to McCallion, which included the refrain, “Don’t Cry for Me Mississauga,” sung to the tune of stage hit “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”
McCallion, who over her years as mayor earned the nickname “Hurricane” for taking Mississauga from being backwater farmland to Canada’s sixth-largest city, spoke to the media about her first day in office.
“Cows and horses were grazing where our city core is today, (and) City Hall was two or three buildings,” McCallion said. “The city has changed a lot.”
She also said she doesn’t regret remaining at local level politics all these years.
“I think you can accomplish more … Think of the city we’ve built, I don’t think any MP or MPP or prime minister can show what we’ve been able to show here in the City of Mississauga.”