Long-time Orangeville councillor Gail Campbell won’t seek re-election in 2018

January 5, 2017   ·   0 Comments

Councillor Gail Campbell will not seek re-election in 2018. She will retire from political office at the end of this term following 20 plus years of service to the Town of Orangeville. Mrs. Campbell has acute rheumatoid arthritis, which has made her mobility increasingly difficult as time progresses. In addition, Councillor Campbell has Non Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer). It is true that Gail’s physical ailments are serious; however none of us should try and draw a correlation between her health and career. In Gail’s words, “I still have things to offer, but would rather serve in different ways than on council”.

I had been politely pushing the councillor to let me write a story about her life and wonderful contributions to the Town of Orangeville. Gail was reluctant to meet with me simply because she determined that “no one would be interested in her story.”  I think you will find that she has indeed enjoyed a wonderful life!

The love Councillor Campbell has for Orangeville first sparked almost 50 years ago. The Campbells moved to Orangeville in 1969. It was a remote place at that time, seemingly far from her Toronto roots, and home to a mere six thousand people. Husband Clark had been hired as an engineer for Caledon and the move to the Headwaters area simply made sense. The Campbells raised their two daughters in Orangeville and today Gail refers to her adult children as the “best support! They’re always there for me.”

Campbell has always been a strong volunteer within our community. She did things that many of us do as we raise our children (Brownie leader, Parent Council), but the future town councillor was inspired to be more active when confronted with school supply issues in the early 1980’s. Everyone wants their children to have the best tools for their academia and extracurricular activities. In 1982, children were forced to share text books and grade 13 students had to pay for their materials. Gail felt this was wrong and she decided to do something about it. Orangeville soon had a new School Board Trustee, a position Mrs. Campbell would hold for fifteen years, “Education is really important to me”. Needless to say, the students received their much-needed educational supplies.

In 1992, the School Board Trustee had expanded her activism to include a position on the Orangeville Police Services Board, while greatly enjoying her career as a Registered Nurse in Dufferin Area Hospital’s (later the Dufferin-Caledon Health Care Corporation) Emergency room.

Gail proudly shares that she was “good at being a nurse”. For those of us that have been sick or have had loved ones fall ill, we know that empathy from our caregivers is a wonderful gift. To know Gail Campbell means that you understand how much she truly cares about people. Sadly, the ability to be a nurse was taken from Gail. You see, that very same year the 49 year old mother of two, fell victim to severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. She was bedridden, immobile, and devastated.

Everyone seems to have a moment in their life where they need help from others. For Gail, that year was 1992. Gail was mired in a hospital bed in her living room for many months that year. Her disease and physical ailments had necessitated early retirement from her fulfilling nursing career, and forced to take a medical leave from the school board. Like many of us, her normally pleasant disposition was overtaken by a destroyed sense of self-worth. 1992 was also negotiation time for Orangeville’s Police association and Gail was vice chair of the committee. The committee agreed to conduct contract negotiations in the Campbell living room to ensure that stationary Gail could participate. Gail shared, “We actually completed negotiating the contract, but most important, because of everyone’s kindness and consideration, I was made to feel that I had value as a person”.

Over time Gail and her medical team were able to find a way out of that bed in her living room. The medication enabled increased mobility; however the side effects of this progress meant that cancer was a possibility. Campbell shared that she “is learning to live with cancer”. Being inquisitive, I asked what her prognosis is. I was floored by her answer, “I am not waxing and waning about it. I will never read about it, or I will drive myself crazy”. Gail also shared that her beloved husband Clark of almost 50 years is also suffering through illness. It is true that his situation is serious, yet Gail shared that Clark Campbell “is the most positive person I have ever met. He keeps me going. We are living our life together in gratitude.”

I asked the humble Councillor to talk about many of her accomplishments during her twenty plus years on council, including Lord Dufferin Woman of the Year, Networker of the Year, David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility, her work with the fire department, and the development of a new police station. Instead Campbell wanted to chat about other things such as homelessness, infrastructure, and her recent nude posing in the Orangeville Music Theatre’s Calendar Girls 2017, which is in support of Dufferin Oaks’ Music & Memory program.

Gail summed up our time together nicely, “I ran for council because I really care about my community. I wanted my community to be better”.

Perhaps, some can find issues that they disagreed with the councillor on, but it is clear Gail has always acted with integrity and ultimately she did indeed contribute to a better town for all of us.

On behalf of all citizens, thank you Gail.

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