April 2023

Jeff Lehman – New District Chair

The Board of Directors met virtually with the new District Chair Jeff Lehman at our February Board meeting. We thought we would take this opportunity to let you know what we learned about the new District Chair.

Chair Lehman introduced himself to the Board and said how delighted he was to be invited to speak. Chair Lehman’s career in municipal politics began in 2006 and includes 12 years as the Mayor of the City of Barrie. Prior to entering the political world, Chair Lehman worked as a consultant across Ontario in the family business in urban planning, followed by partnering in his own business. Chair Lehman brings to the role of District Chair 30 years of experience in municipal work, either as a consultant or in politics.

Chair Lehman explained to the Board that as District Chair it is his job to speak to the government at both the Provincial and Federal levels about issues affecting Muskoka.  As the previous Mayor of Barrie, Chair Lehman spent 12 years advocating with the government, and he was the Chair of the Big City Mayor’s Caucus. As Chair Lehman’s third term as Mayor neared completion, he spoke to former District Chair John Klinck who suggested Jeff consider the role of District Chair. In November 2022, Jeff put his name forward for the position and was selected by District Council for the role in December 2022.  Since taking office, Chair Lehman has met with members of District Council, as well as municipal elected officials and staff to familiarize himself with the position.  Chair Lehman has also begun to meet with local organizations.

Chair Lehman explained that when asked what his top priorities were, he had said housing, the environment, and the economy. When asked if one priority stood out, he said that housing was one of, if not the top issue. Chair Lehman stated that hotels and homes in Muskoka are being converted to staff housing and it is almost impossible for people to buy their first home. Chair Lehman felt that the District of Muskoka will need to take leadership on this topic.

Lastly, Chair Lehman explained that it’s important that communities determine their own destiny with planning regulations, and this is currently being limited by new Provincial Legislative changes. Municipalities cannot currently control development.  As Muskoka is located on the Canadian Shield, Chair Lehman is working with MPP Graydon Smith to ensure that development is not permitted at the expense of the environment.