Mike Langdon Steps Down

He was one of the youngest presidents in MLA history (if not THE youngest), but Mike Langdon will go down in the archives as one of the best.

Mike stepped down as president last week at the Muskoka Lakes Association’s annual meeting in Port Carling, after a two-year term. He leaves big shoes to fill for new president Michael Hart.

Among the accomplishments in Mike’s term of office:

  • He led a strategic review that helped the MLA focus on four core initiatives, as demanded by our members: water quality; advocating for responsible government and fair taxation; promoting responsible land use; and leading on important Muskoka issues;
  • He initiated a bursary for a local high- school graduate to help the MLA connect more closely with the year-round Muskoka community (the latest winner, introduced at our AGM last Friday, is Bradie Debes of Gravenhurst);
  • He championed a sweeping overhaul of MLA communications, which has seen the association launch two new, well received editorial products: our quarterly newsletter, Shorelines, and our monthly “MLA NewsBites,” to help our members track year-round political news and other goings-on in Muskoka; and
  • He pushed for a major new member acquisition program, to help ensure that the association continues to have an impact on important Muskoka issues in future.

Every association, and indeed most organizations, regularly face challenging decisions about which activities to focus on (and not to focus on) in order to best leverage scarce resources. Mike has helped the MLA adopt a disciplined approach to “mission creep” by reminding us constantly to focus on the issues that our members care most about, as expressed in our biennial member surveys.

Mike’s strategic focus comes naturally; in his civilian life, he is director of communications with a prominent national company in Toronto. Still only in his mid-30s, Mike has a keen sense of strategy, a gift for communicating frequently and consistently, and an impatience for protocol that helps him cut through issues to find the right solutions – which, once identified, suddenly look obvious.

In essence, Mike Langdon makes this leadership stuff look easy.

But you wouldn't expect it at first glance. One MLA director notes that when fresh-faced Mike was first announced as the MLA’s next skipper, he thought, “Great. We have a kid for a president.” Since then, however, this director says “I have found that he is an exceptionally capable person with abilities well beyond his years.”

Mike cottages near Gravenhurst. Like many members, he originally joined the MLA while working with his neighbors to deal with an unwanted, over-ambitious development proposal. He realized, as so many of us have, that the rural waterfront environment that epitomizes Muskoka is constantly being threatened by oversized developments, short-sighted planners, and even, sometimes, under-informed cottagers. He brought to the MLA a commitment to communication and diplomacy, but also a steel will to fight for what we believe is right.

MLA directors say they will remember Mike for his generous dedication of time to the MLA, his ability to comment insightfully on a wide variety of subjects and his ability to run a meeting where diverse opinions are respected, while building a consensus that almost always leads to a unanimous decision, and his ability to remain good-natured long after most people’s patience would have been exhausted.

Asked to name Mike’s most important contribution to the MLA, another director said, “I’d guess that there were more new initiatives introduced under Mike’s term than anyone else’s. But if I had to pick one, it would be the bursary program – the right thing to do on so many levels.”

Of course, no one is saying goodbye to Mike Langdon yet. He continues to serve the board as past-president, and will continue to champion thoughtful strategy and fidelity to members’ priorities. But he is also working on a new project – he’s getting married in November.

In Muskoka!

Rick Spence
MLA Director