PORT HAWKESBURY: After 54 years of public service and less than a week before his 80th birthday, former Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean gathered with a few hundred friends last Saturday night at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.

The night’s mandate was to celebrate the contributions MacLean made to the town during his public life. Music and well-wishes defined the evening, along with anecdotes, laughter, tears, hugs, handshakes, and visits with friends both old and new.

It was also a time to look back at the legacy MacLean leaves. He said, in terms of his political career, he hopes he’ll be remembered for three major accomplishments. The first was establishing the SAERC and the second was working to bring the NSCC Strait Area Campus to town.

“And the greatest thing of all is the building we’re standing in,” he said, just a few feet inside the Bear Head Conference Room of the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.

Billy Joe MacLean and his wife Glenda were presented tokens of appreciation by councillor Trevor Boudreau and Major Brenda Chisholm-Beaton.
Billy Joe MacLean and his wife Glenda were presented tokens of appreciation by councillor Trevor Boudreau and Major Brenda Chisholm-Beaton.

The former mayor said it was an emotional experience to stand at the conference room door and greet people as they strolled in.

“These are loyal friends of mine who I’ve had for 50 years,” he said. “There’s lots of tears in their eyes, there’s lots of good thoughts. It’s great of them to come and say goodbye.

“My wonderful family is here: 17 grandkids, eight of our own kids, wives and husbands. What else could you ask for in this world? Maybe to win 6/49, but my 6/49 is this town. I love where I live. I love this town.”

A standing ovation greeted Billy Joe MacLean when he took to the podium to thank those attending last Saturday’s celebration.
A standing ovation greeted Billy Joe MacLean when he took to the podium to thank those attending last Saturday’s celebration.

The night also included comments from Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, the new Mayor of Port Hawkesbury; Rodger Cuzner, MP for Cape Breton-Canso; Michel Samson, Minister of Energy and Minister of Acadian Affairs; Allan MacMaster, MLA for Inverness County; and Rollie Thornhill, former MLA for Dartmouth South and a provincial cabinet colleague of MacLean. With them, letters of congratulations were sent from people like Jamie Baillie, leader of the PC Party of Nova Scotia; David Dingwall, former federal MP and cabinet minister; and Ashley MacIsaac, world-renowned musician.

Rollie Thornhill, former MLA for Dartmouth South, shared several funny stories about the former mayor.
Rollie Thornhill, former MLA for Dartmouth South, shared several funny stories about the former mayor.

At the end of the evening, MacLean said he very much appreciated so many friends visiting.

When asked what his immediate future included, MacLean said he had big ideas about cleaning out his furnace room and basement.

“I’m going to lay-low, help out at the house and do things that I should have done the last five years,” he said.

For more on the celebration, see the November 23 edition of The Reporter.

MP Rodger Cuzner spoke at last Saturday’s celebration of Billy Joe MacLean’s 54 years of public service. Behind Cuzner is a picture of MacLean celebrating one of his many victories in public office.
MP Rodger Cuzner spoke at last Saturday’s celebration of Billy Joe MacLean’s 54 years of public service. Behind Cuzner is a picture of MacLean celebrating one of his many victories in public office.
Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster, one of the speakers taking to the podium last Saturday, had nothing but good things to say about Mayor MacLean.
Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster, one of the speakers taking to the podium last Saturday, had nothing but good things to say about MacLean.
Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Michel Samson also had kind words for MacLean.
Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Michel Samson also had kind words for MacLean.