2017 marks a year of milestones for me.
Our family business JED Express marks 25 years of success in business as I finish my first full year working with my Dad and a great group of colleagues.
I turn the big 3-0 in November.
I celebrate over a decade in public life.
And it will be my last full year as Mayor of the Township of North Dundas: a job that I have loved, that I have grown in, and has opened many doors for me.
The past year for me, however, has already been one of transition.
I made, to many, a surprising move to step away from my role in federal politics to reflect on my future and to help my father and our family business.
It has given me more time to think about my future, professionally and personally.
Recently, I concluded that I need to publicly address a key part of my life to allow myself to live my life happy and balanced going forward.
I want to acknowledge today the simple fact that I am gay.
I am one of many men and women who have struggled to balance this with my work and other aspects of my life.
I have struggled and debated about making this statement on a large scale. Do I need to say anything? Will it affect my career? Would I lose friends and people who have supported me for years?
I am not making this announcement for attention. Ironically, for the exact opposite reason.
I want people to know that I have been private about being gay not because I am ashamed or embarrassed. I have always believed that anyone’s private life should be exactly that: private. Rarely, it has any bearing on our abilities to do our jobs and make a difference.
Until now, I have not discussed my sexual orientation because I have always believed it is not relevant to assessing my successes and failures.
Being gay has never impacted my job performance. It has not impacted my skills to run a meeting, to put together a budget, or make a hiring decision.
I have waited this long to show people that sexual orientation shouldn’t impact a person’s ability to do their job effectively.
I have been very proud of what I have been able to achieve in my life to date. I have wanted to be judged solely on my leadership traits and my record as Mayor, and nothing else.
By sharing my story, I am not 100% sure what the reaction will be. I am at the point in my life where that is not my priority. Rather, I want to live freely and proud of who I am, and achieve happiness in my personal and professional life, whatever that direction may be.
Some people will react with surprise, and unfortunately, some with disappointment or anger.
But I suspect that for most people, like I have experienced in coming out to close family and friends, there will be support, or in many cases, just plain indifference to this news.
Social norms have undoubtedly become more tolerant and compassionate in recent years. I could never have gathered the courage to write this a generation ago.
I am fully aware that there is still a ways to go. In the meantime, it is my hope that this news changes nothing.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll go to work like every other day and be treated no different. Someone will call or email me to complain about a pothole or local issue. I’ll run a meeting or two.
And, like I have my entire life, I’ll try and do something to make my community a better place. I plan to make my last 17 months in municipal politics meaningful.
When I step out of the Mayor’s office for the last time next November, I can’t help but begin to reflect about what my legacy will be.
I hope that residents feel I have done a good job and made a difference.
I hope that young people see a 20-something Mayor holding his own alongside colleagues twice or three times his age, to become inspired enough to get involved in public life and their community themselves at a young age.
And after today, I hope a gay teenage boy or girl who is scared about their future, and who wonder if they can ever come out, reads this note to know that it will all be OK in the long run.
Sure, there will be roadblocks and some intolerance. But you will be more surprised at the love, the support, and the indifference from those that matter.
Everyone faces barriers and roadblocks in life. Some taller or deeper than others. But I hope they will know that they can work hard, be passionate, and reach for their dreams.
I’m grateful to have been given a chance to do just that, and to now have a burden off my shoulders.
Stronger and more proud than ever, I look forward to entering my next decade of life and finish my term in public office.
To any person out there who needs hope, please consider my story: if I can do it, you can too.
Editor's note: Eric Duncan currently serves as Mayor for the Township of North Dundas and served two terms as Warden of the United Counties of SD&G. He was elected Councillor at age 18 and Mayor in 2010 at the age of 22. Eric is the epitome of bronze&gold. His drive goes completely unmatched - spending his twenties in public service as the MAYOR of North Dundas. He rolls around town in a slick Chrysler 300, used to sport his Blackberry in a holster, all while having his trendy facial hair become the whole town's concern. Madison will never forget Eric teaching her how to play card games in the back of Tommy's bus through elementary school. We are truly honoured to have him as a guest writer.