Austin Hunt retiring as nation’s longest serving politician

BILLINGS—It has been a long and winding road for Billings’ venerable mayor Austin Hunt, who first sat down at a municipal table 65 years ago. For the first time since 1953, Mr. Hunt’s name will not be appearing on the ballot.

“No, I am not running,” said Mayor Hunt, contacted Monday at his Kagawong residence. “My son Michael is, so you wouldn’t want two Hunts on the same ballot,” he joked.

As to his time on council, Mayor Hunt was philosophical. “Good things happen,” he said, “but it always seems you are working from crisis to crisis in municipal government.”

But over the more than half-a-century that Mayor Hunt has been in municipal government a lot has come to pass. “Oh there have been tremendous changes,” he said. “Manitoulin has gone through many changes. Municipal government associations have gotten bigger and there are a lot more meetings to attend.”

For much of his time in office, Mayor Hunt has represented the Manitoulin Municipal Association on the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, and sat upon the governing body of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

“Municipal affairs have come a long way in the last half century,” he said.

Asked if there was anything still on the table that he was reluctant to step away from, Mayor Hunt demurred. “Not really,” he said. “Over the years some things you win, some things you lose, if people are not ready to go along with you…”

But there is one thing Mr. Hunt did not hesitate to share. “I am happy to have contributed to the community in my own small way,” he said. “It gives me great satisfaction to have been allowed to serve for so long.”

In 2013 Mayor Hunt was honoured by FONOM for his 60 years of service, the second such recognition he has received from that organization, the first being an executive award presented in 2002. “I think they might have forgotten the first one,” he joked.

Mayor Hunt easily outdistanced former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, his closest rival for Canadian municipal longevity, who began her career in 1967.