Mississauga's longest-serving mayor presided Wednesday over her last city council meeting, where she was honoured with emotional tributes from city staff and community leaders.
After 36 years at the helm, 93-year-old Hazel McCallion was given an official tribute by city manager Janice Baker and unofficial tributes from other prominent community members for her service. Mississauga city councillors shared anecdotes of her time at city hall and McCallion herself addressed council.
Some members of council and audience members in attendance were visibly emotional when McCallion formally handed over the chain of office to the city clerk.
After the meeting adjourned, McCallion, famous for the steely resolve that earned her the nickname Hurricane Hazel, choked up as she spoke with reporters and recalled her early years as mayor.
"When I sat down in the mayor's chair for the first time, there were cows and horses grazing where our city core is today," she said.
Under McCallion's leadership, Mississauga's population more than doubled, making it the sixth-largest city in Canada. Over her tenure as mayor, she was approached numerous times to run provincially and federally. But McCallion said she never seriously considered leaving city politics.
"I've never regretted staying at the local level. You can accomplish more, you can be independent. Look at the city we've built."
Laughing, she added: "I would not be good at following the party line of anyone."
Hazel..."I look forward to do something different but I'm not leaving Mississauga.". Tears in chamber as Hazel turns in chain of offiice.— Jamie Strashin (@StrashinCBC) November 26, 2014
After 12 terms in office, McCallion will pass the reins to mayor-elect Bonnie Crombie, who will be inaugurated on Dec. 2. McCallion publicly supported Crombie in the hard-fought October civic election.
The mayor's last day in office, officially, is Nov. 30, and McCallion has no plans to rest on her laurels until then.
"I started to work the first day I was elected and I'm going to work to the last day I'm elected," she said.
After her tenure as mayor ends, McCallion will work with the Ontario Women's Hockey Association. She has also been approached by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to possibly take on a part-time role as a consultant, but hasn't had time to consider the request because she's been "too busy."
Retiring city councillors Katie Mahoney and Pat Mullin were also feted at the morning meeting.