Normally, the village of St. Martins, on New Brunswick’s Fundy coast, doesn’t lack for much. The lovely little fishing burg 40 km from Saint John boasts an abundance of lobster, a front-row view of the world’s largest tides, and enough distance between it and Saint John to keep things quiet and sublime. If only it had a functioning government.
In April, the town lost councillor Mike Gillchrist, 54, to cancer; its equally popular mayor Jim Huttges, 68, died in August after a triple bypass, meaning the town council hasn’t been able to make quorum for the past three months. City hall is now in a bind: according to provincial law, it can’t hold by-elections between now and May 2012, when province-wide elections are held. As a result, St. Martins has fallen into trusteeship, with a provincial government-appointed clerk overseeing town functions in the interim.
“It’s been a terrible year, to say the least,” says village clerk and treasurer Mysti Patterson. “Because our community is so small, the whole town has been affected.”
And in St. Martins, it seems, bad news travels in threes. Gillchrist died within days of mayor Huttges’s twin brother Mickey “the Meat Man” Huttges, the beloved owner of the local general store, and artisanal sausage maker. Patterson says roughly 10 other people have passed away suddenly in the last year, including her own sister. “I don’t know what it is. It’s not like we can blame the water.”
Thankfully, the appointed trustee of the village, Sandra J. Roy, herself a former St. Martins town clerk, has made sure snow and garbage removal continue uninterrupted until the elections. The only thing residents will miss is town council meetings—though not many are likely to complain. “We’d usually get about a half-dozen people at each,” Patterson told Maclean’s.