They are avid Beatles fans and collectors of Beatles memorabilia.
The Van Bynens came to Newmarket in 1980 when the Royal Bank appointed Tony manager of its branch on Main Street.
“We felt like we were ‘at home’ the day we arrived and were able to set roots here.”
Roxanne, a retired special education teacher, spent 25 years with the local public school board, teaching at Maple Leaf, Glen Cedar and Rogers schools.
Tony advanced in to senior management roles at Royal Bank and was able to commute from Newmarket to offices in Toronto, York and Peel. He retired from the bank after 30 years and worked as a financial planner for Dundee Private Investors for years before devoting himself full time to politics.
For the Van Bynens, making Newmarket their home meant more than living and working in the community and raising their daughters here. It meant acting on the values they learned growing up in southwestern Ontario: Be engaged in your community. Help those in need. Make a difference.
“When I was in Grade 2 or 3, the rented farmhouse my family lived in burned to the ground. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but we were left with only the clothes on our backs. My parents couldn’t afford insurance at the time.
Our neighbours took us in to their homes — all 10 of us, two in each home — until we were able to get back on our feet. As I recall, it was as long as four to six weeks before we were able to find a place, furniture and clothing from various neighbours and support agencies.
The importance of helping your neighbour has always stayed with me. Not only did I see how much it meant to our family, but I saw the value of a caring community at work many times over in my youth: When a neighbour was ill and unable to harvest a crop, neighbours had a ‘haying or harvest bee’ and got a one-week job done in a day. When a neighbour suffered a serious implement accident injury, it was the same. We all showed up to help.”
Tony and Roxanne have volunteered their time with dozens of local groups committed to improving the lives of people in the community.
Roxanne drives cancer patients to their appointments, makes and serves lunch to seniors and sells daffodils for the Canadian Cancer Society and poppies for the Legion.
At Inn From the Cold homeless shelter, both work in the kitchen and in registration to help people get settled in for the night. They have spent years volunteering for the Persechini Easter Seals Run/Walkathon, Tony as a member of the corporate committee and Roxanne with the school committee.
Tony has taken on leadership roles as founding director of Belinda’s Place Foundation women’s shelter, board member at Trinity Glen affordable housing complex and board member of the Newmarket Seniors Meeting Place.
“As hokey as it may sound, the Boy Scout motto, ‘Always leave your campsite in better condition than it was when you arrived’ has stayed with me for many years.”
Tony has also played a key role in many organizations and initiatives aimed at making Newmarket a better place.
As a founding director, he helped to establish the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, an organization that encourages local businesses to work together to resolve issues of common concern, contribute to the community and promote Newmarket as a great place to live, work and do business. He was part of a committee that created the town’s first economic development promotional video and developed Chamber on Location, a TV program that ran for two seasons.
More than a decade ago, Tony helped launch the Downtown Development Committee, which developed a community improvement plan to cement the downtown as a community-gathering place, by attracting and retaining downtown businesses, promoting events and championing projects such as Market Square and Newmarket Riverwalk Commons.
“My involvement in local politics goes back to a discussion I had with Newmarket Era/Aurora Banner journalist(and former Mayor of Aurora Dick Illingworth when I expressed concerns about a municipal decision. I can still remember his challenge: ‘If you don’t agree with the decisions that have been made, why don’t you get involved and see if the community agrees with you? Why don’t you stand for election.’ So I did… and… I was elected.”
In 2000, Tony successfully ran for town council. In 2003, he was elected Regional Councillor; and in 2006 and 2010, Mayor of Newmarket.
As Mayor, he was appointed to Southlake Regional Health Centre’s board of directors and plays an active role in strategic long-term planning through the property and finance committee at the hospital, which not only provides world-class health care to area residents but is also one of the town’s largest employers.
As a member of regional council, he has served on nearly every committee and has gained an understanding of how broader issues will affect Newmarket.
“What happens around us as a community has as great an impact on us as the decisions the Town makes on issues within our mandate. The VivaNext rapid transit project is a good example. The extensive road improvements along Davis Drive and Yonge Street and the links to broader employment opportunities through improved transit will be a substantial investment in renewing Newmarket.”