After provincial legislation brought municipal incorporation to Nova Scotia in 1879, the first Council of the Municipality of Yarmouth met on January 13, 1880. The following representatives of the five districts of the Municipality had been elected: Robert H. Rose, James E. Allen, James P. Lovitt, William H. Moody, Abram Hatfield, Edwin Crosby and John A. Hatfield. After holding a ballot, W.H. Moody was elected Warden and Thomas B. Crosby, a former Clerk of the Peace, was unanimously elected Municipality Clerk. At this first meeting Committees were appointed to procure a Seal, to prepare rules and by-laws, and to ask for tenders from persons willing to act as Collectors of Rates, i.e. Tax Collectors.
A burning issue of the day was construction of a railroad to link the towns and communities of Nova Scotia and, indeed, to connect the province with the rest of Canada. The railway would improve communication, transportation and open up many possibilities for economic development.
The councillors recognized the benefits a railroad would bring to the County and of immediate concern to the first municipal Council was the proposed railway line between Yarmouth and Annapolis. The Western Counties Railway Company, established in 1870, was responsible for its construction but various political complications had interfered with the progress of the line and by autumn 1879 it had only reached Digby.
At the second Council meeting of February 3, 1880, it was decided to send a representative from Yarmouth to join delegates from Digby and Halifax, to discuss the matter in Ottawa. [There was some discussion about who was to pay the costs of travel.] Thus many of the concerns addressed by the council elected 125 years ago are similar to those facing Council today.
The Municipal Council, whose powers and duties are set out in a series of Provincial Acts, is the principal legislative and governing body for the Municipality. In the course of carrying out its responsibilities, Council makes decisions by resolution, by policy or by by-law. Some of the areas often requiring decision or legislation by Council are: the provision of fundamental services like water, sewage and disposal of waste, allocation of funds, budget, municipal taxation, responsibility for disadvantaged or elderly residents of the municipality, economic initiatives, preservation of heritage property and wilderness areas, maintenance of roads, fire prevention and police protection. In other words, Council is responsible for making decisions that best serve the interests of the residents of the Municipality of Yarmouth.
The Council is composed of seven councillors, each elected as the representative by and for the residents in a specific district. Elections take place every four years. Council meetings are presided over by the Warden or, in his absence, the Deputy Warden, who are chosen from among the councillors at the first meeting following a municipal election.