Skip to content

U.K. group recognizes Dover mayor’s community service

by Sean Meyer, Municipal World
in Governance, Leadership
February, 2024

When Tony Keats learned he had made the shortlist for the World Mayor Prize, he was quick to say how much of an honour it was just to be nominated. Keats, the mayor of Dover, Nfld., was happy to be representing his community to a global audience.

It was a humble, and as it turns out, slightly ironic perspective. After all, Keats may not have won the World Mayor Prize, but he was honoured by the U.K.-based City Mayors Foundation with their World Mayor Community Award.

“This award, I said to somebody who asked me the other day what it felt like to win this one, and I said, ‘If I was going to win anything, the Community Award would be my top choice,’” Keats said. “And especially within that community atmosphere, it’s more appreciated because of what it means.”

Welcome to the Hall Banner Ad 2

Honoured for Community Service

Keats was chosen for the award based on his, “extraordinary service to his town and its people since 1996.” He was also lauded for showing, “mayors from small communities can become role models for civic leaders everywhere.”

Keats was also recognized for sharing his knowledge and expertise with other communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and even Bolivia. Keats spent time in Bolivia (located in central South America) while working with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

A Bolivian contributor to the 2023 World Mayor Project wrote that Keats’ contributions to municipalities have had a profound and lasting impact on the country’s communities.

Tann vom Hove, a Senior Fellow with City Mayors Foundation, praised Keats for his professional generosity.

“He is happy to share ideas with colleagues and act as a mentor to aspiring local politicians,” vom Hove said. “Tony Keats has shown that mayors from small communities can become role models for civic leaders everywhere. He has become an inspiration for people serving their local communities.”

Passionate Mayoral Support

Keats is proud to be recognized with the Community Award. He is even more excited by the support he received from people across the globe. The comments included in his submission nomination spotlighted qualities Keats holds most dear, including:

  • Mayor Tony Keats is the most humble and empathetic person I know.
  • This is a small town with a big history and, thanks in a big part to Mayor Keats, a town with a big heart.
  • Aside from his incredible work in his hometown, he has brought his vision and care to larger populations right across Canada.
  • He has worked diligently to not only help his town of Dover but all municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Mayor Tony Keats has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities, advocating for the welfare of the people, and working tirelessly to bring positive change to the region.

Given these glowing accolades, it isn’t surprising Keats celebrates the support. But it is the recognition of his community viewpoint that he cherishes so much.

“Looking back at all these statements of support, it is truly remarkable,” Keats said. “You don’t get applause or pats on the back every day. Seeing those from various people, not only from my own community, but from around the province, and around the country, it’s nice to see.”

Reflecting on a Long Road

Keats began his World Mayor journey last fall. Looking back, he still finds it remarkable that he got as far as he did.

Dover is a small community, “a little bit over 600 people,” as Keats puts it. Seeing the support of so many residents, not to mention from everywhere else, made Keats feel quite introspective. But it wasn’t just the comments that put him in that mood.

Keats, as all the finalists were required to do, wrote a 2,000-plus word essay on what motivated him to enter politics. It also required the mayors to reflect on the challenges they face as mayor and how they envisage their community prosperity in the future.

Looking back on 32-plus years of municipal experience (the last 27 years as mayor) may seem daunting. But Keats still remembers the first meeting he sat down to. He can remember getting sworn in at that meeting. And back in those days, he was only required to show up to one meeting a month.

Back in those days, he didn’t have a lot of “big prep work” ahead of meetings. But there were certainly issues at that meeting that are still being brought to the council table today.

Clean drinking water, wastewater, and the environment were all issues on the council agenda. And they remain there today. But the biggest change is the municipal space is now a daily reality.

And for Keats, that work is made even more prevalent as his “day job” at Canada Post takes place in a building right beside town hall. That convenience makes him “very approachable” as people know where he works. They know where he lives, too.

That ease of access is a reality that may bother some politicians. But Keats sees it as an advantage.

“I’m interacting with the community every day and so I know what their concerns are. And their concerns are mine,” Keats said. “You’re dealing with those the best that you can, and as long as you’re being honest with your residents and the people that you serve, I think that’s what is needed in municipal politics. You’ve got to be able to tell people what you can do and what you can’t do and move forward with that.”

Look Toward the Future

Reflecting on his more than three decades in municipal politics, Keats said he remains as enthusiastic about it today as when he was first elected.

Every election year people ask Keats if he is going to run again. Sometimes they focus on asking him not to leave. But typically, Keats waits until the week before he has to announce his intentions before revealing his decision.

That said, he does admit that if asked today, his answer would be that he is leaning toward running yet again.

“My heart is in my community, it’s in municipal politics. That’s not going to change,” Keats said. “I feel very rewarded doing the work that I do. So, I can see myself running in next year’s election. I enjoy what I’m doing, and I always said, if you like what you’re doing, it’s never going to be a job.”

World Mayor Prize

The City Mayors Foundation announced the winners of the 2023 World Mayor Prize and Awards on Jan. 30. The biennial honours have been awarded since 2004.

The 2023 World Mayor Prize was awarded to Elke Kahr, Mayor of Graz, Austria, “for her selfless dedication to her city and its people.” Her decision to share a large part of her salary with people in need has attracted worldwide admiration.

The World Mayor Jury Award was conferred on Manuel De Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique, “for his defence of democratic values in his country and his ambitious plans and initiatives to make Quelimane one of the most sustainable cities in Africa.”

The World Mayor Friendship Award was conferred on Stefan Fassbinder, Mayor of Greifswald, Germany, “for supporting communities in Ukraine, Poland, and Brazil.”  MW

✯ Municipal World Executive and Essentials Plus Members: You might also be interested in Sean’s other article: Local government champions look ahead to new experiences.

Sean Meyer is Digital Content Editor for Municipal World.

Related resource materials:

Next Story
See All Feature Stories

We need to talk