Former Wellington County Warden and Puslinch Township Mayor Brad Whitcombe passed away suddenly on Sunday November 16th, after an unexpected illness.
Brad was the loving and devoted spouse of Lise Burcher, brother, best friend and business partner of Kevin Whitcombe, Sandra Dotzer, and Victoria Barnes, brother-in-law of Tom Barnes, and uncle to Colin Barnes, Jennifer St. Clair, April Dixon, great uncle to Amy and Erica Dixon, and friend to Kate and Claire Nelischer. Pre-deceased by parents Dorothy and Victor Whitcombe.
With his family, friends, and community, there were no bounds to Brad’s spirit of generosity. He devoted tremendous energy with a distinct clarity of purpose toward community building in his much loved Township of Puslinch and Wellington County. Service was Brad’s calling and he held this as an honour of the highest degree. He served his family, his community of Puslinch, and the broader community nationally and internationally. He had a natural and tremendously successful leadership style that instilled in others the belief that together, colleagues and community members could achieve great things. He said his approach was to set the stake in the ground much further out than others would expect, and then mobilize all to get there. He drew people in with his warm, affable manner to contribute to achieving excellence in all endeavours.
As man of vision, he was a persuasive champion and could be a formidable opponent, with his sights set squarely on the goal. He loved a challenge and found the collaboration with others to be exhilarating. When asked about how he achieved his many accomplishments, he would always respond in a self-effacing manner indicating that he succeeded because he surrounded himself with people who could do the job.
Brad was first elected to Puslinch council in 1989 and served as Wellington County Warden in 2000, 2005 and 2006. His legacy includes the ambitious and United Nations award winning Green Legacy Program, which he initiated with Wellington County CAO Scott Wilson in which more than a million trees were planted in the county since 2008, the largest such program on the continent. Brad championed the Wellington County Library System enhancement program, which resulted in the restoration of several Carnegie libraries and the creation of a number of new libraries throughout the County.
Brad was integral to the establishment of the Aberfoyle Farmer’s Market with Puslinch Councillor and friend Matthew Bulmer. Brad also lead the Puslinch Township Ground Water Management Plan, the Mill Creek Area Watershed Plan, rural water quality improvements and served on the board of conservation authorities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. At the time of his passing, Brad was the president of the Aberfoyle Farmers’ Market and The Friends of Mill Creek.
As a testament to his values, he entered the most recent municipal campaign to reclaim his former mayoral seat with the clear and greater goal of mobilizing the citizens of Puslinch to re-engage with their community. While he did not win the seat, he was happy to have achieved his goal of activating community engagement. He often quoted his respected predecessor and mentor Archie McRobbie, the former Reeve of Puslinch, that you are not a true politician until you have been knocked out once. Remarkably, and a testament to Brad’s drive and resilience, after having been “knocked out” twice, he was already considering running in the 2018 campaign.
Brad’s positive energy was infectious. His ebullient personality was legendary and evident in both the small, everyday joys and the big wins. He was equally exuberant about a big win in his last term of council in receiving substantial funding to undertake his “Big Lake” project as he was about romping through the new fallen snow with his beloved canine companion Della, or pulling potatoes out of his well tended garden patch. In a word, stewardship captures Brad’s approach to life. He believed his role was to convene all the forces and resources necessary to care for his community.
Brad was loved by many and will be sadly missed. As per Brad’s wishes, he would like his friends and colleagues to join in a celebration of his life on Sunday, December 7th from 2:00 to 4:00pm at the Puslinch Community Centre. In lieu of flowers or a service, donations can be made to the Aberfoyle Farmers’ Market or The Friends of Mill Creek.