Stanstead’s first mayor looks back

Stanstead Journal - - FROM PAGE ONE - Vic­to­ria Vanier Stanstead

The Town of Stanstead, founded in 1995 with the merger of Stanstead Plain, Rock Is­land and Beebe Plain, is cel­e­brat­ing its 20th an­niver­sary this year. Al­bert Simoneau, who was born in Beebe, raised in Rock Is­land, and still lives in Stanstead to­day, was a driv­ing force be­hind the three-town merger and was elected as the new town’s first mayor.

“The gov­ern­ment started the process in the early 1990’s to get towns to merge to save money. They started writ­ing let­ters to us about merg­ing around 1993,” said Mr.

Simoneau, the mayor of Rock Is­land at the time, in an in­ter­view with the Stanstead Jour­nal. “We in Rock Is­land were in­ter­ested and Stanstead Plain was in­ter­ested, so a gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive came to ex­plain the process.” Af­ter meet­ing with Stanstead Plain mayor Rey­nald De­mers and his coun­cil a few times, a fea­si­bil­ity study of the merger, which came out pos­i­tively, was done. How­ever, while wait­ing to hear the find­ings of that study, Mr. Simoneau had been do­ing some study­ing of his own, com­ing to the con­clu­sion that, for the merge to be re­ally suc­cess­ful, Beebe and its in­dus­tries had to be ‘in’.

“We had to ap­proach Beebe – Ray Lussier was the mayor at the time. They were re­luc­tant but agreed to do a study,” Mr. Simoneau ex­plained. Beebe Plain cit­i­zens were a lit­tle more di­vided on the is­sue than those in Rock Is­land and Stanstead Plain. “There was a group of res­i­dents in Beebe who tried to fight it at first. A meet­ing was held and I went to it. I wasn’t in­vited but I went just the same. Some peo­ple weren’t happy to see me walk in!”

But with most peo­ple in the three vil­lages sup­port­ing the merger (Stanstead Plain and Rock Is­land at about 75 to 80 %, and Beebe Plain at around 60 %), it even­tu­ally went through and the new town was founded on Fe­bru­ary 15th, 1995. An elec­tion was held to choose the new coun­cil and Al­bert Simoneau, run­ning against Joe Ga­bo­ri­ault and Jean-Guy Joyal, was elected as the new town’s first mayor.

One chal­lenge that came with the merge was the need to change a few street names, never easy when those names have been around for decades and decades. Rock Is­land’s Main Street, which met up with Stanstead Plain’s Duf­ferin, was changed to Duf­ferin Street, Rock Is­land’s Maple Street was changed to Leroy Robin­son, the founder of the Stanstead Jour­nal, and Beebe’s Church Street be­came Gran­ite Street. “We re­ally tried to keep street name changes to a min­i­mum and we looked at the his­tory of the streets and their names when we made our de­ci­sions.”

Asked whether, twenty years later, the merge was good for the three towns, Mr. Simoneau replied: “Yes, I do be­lieve the merge was good: there are less ad­min­is­tra­tive costs, more ser­vices and the mill rate came down. It’s thanks to Mr. De­mers and Mr. Lussier, and their coun­cils, that we had a smooth merger. We had very good sec­re­tary-trea­sur­ers too, at the time, and the co­op­er­a­tion was good as a whole.”

“You can see the town pro­gress­ing. I like what I see go­ing on down­town with arts, cul­ture and sports. In­dus­tri­ally we’re do­ing bet­ter, even if the gran­ite industry has gone down. The merger has been good and it will con­tinue to be good; look at the two new de­vel­op­ments start­ing in Beebe. And now the churches have had to merge but I think that, be­cause the towns had merged, it made it eas­ier for the churches to merge.”

“The last few years we’ve had a good mayor and a good group at coun­cil; the town can only be good if the coun­cilors are good. But I see a bet­ter fu­ture for Stanstead, which should in­clude more tourism. We re­ally need a ho­tel in town!” con­cluded the former mayor.

The town of Stanstead is hold­ing a spe­cial event to cel­e­brate its 20th an­niver­sary and to com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the Great Fire of Stanstead Plain, this Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 22nd, at the Colby Cur­tis Mu­seum from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.

Photo cour­tesy

Photo cour­tesy

Al­bert Simoneau, seen here at his home in Stanstead, was the merged town’s first mayor.

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