BY ERIN FAWCETT AND MARK WEBER
Three new faces have joined the ranks of City council.
Lawrence Lee (8,406 votes), Ken Johnston (7,134 votes) and Tanya Handley (6,622 votes) were elected to council Monday night.
Rounding out City council includes incumbents Dianne Wyntjes with 9,840 votes, Buck Buchanan with 8,434 votes, Lynne Mulder with 8,341 votes, Frank Wong with 8,018 votes and Paul Harris with 6,631 votes.
Mulder said in the next four years she is looking forward to accomplishing many things as the new council moves forward.
“I’m really anxious to see crime prevention unfold. We’ve done a lot of work with the police and the servicing standard but we haven’t unfolded our crime prevention banner which is just beginning. I’m also really excited about Riverlands and seeing that get developed – we’re not going to develop it all, but we’re going to be excited to start it.”
Harris said that moving forward, it’s very important that City council develop a strong means of better communicating with the public.
“Council has never really had the ability to communicate with the public – it’s always been through administration,” he said. “That’s a big one for me because we’ve got so much diversity out in the community and I don’t think council is hearing the voices of the whole community.”
As for projects, Harris said he wants to see the aquatic centre built to the community’s vision – not watered down. “I think it’s very important that we don’t try and scale back the community’s vision.” That includes planning fundraising initiatives in the community and with the province. With a bid for the winter games for 2019 in place, the timing is right, he said.
Harris also pointed to ongoing development in the Riverlands as a top priority.
“We have a business case coming to council which I think will be much stronger than anything that’s been seen before for Riverlands.”
Buchanan said there is much work to be done in the next four years.
“We have to first off make a team (with council). There’s going to be that steep learning curve for all of us. We’ll have a three or four-month period of getting to know our teammates – how do they think? And what do they think?” he said. “There are a lot of infrastructure challenges right now. We have the winter games bid coming up really quickly – there’s no lack of stuff to do.”
Wyntjes said she was honoured and humbled that the citizens of Red Deer again showed confidence in her to represent them.
“I start my campaign the first day after the election. I was out and about in the community, and I think it’s really about connecting with people. The citizens may not have liked everything I did throughout the year, but for the most part for me it’s about weighing everything out,” she said.
“We run individually as candidates, but now, after the council is determined and sworn in, we have to work together and get the work done.” She said keeping ambulance dispatch local, development of the Riverlands and issues of affordability are among the top issues for her heading into the new term.
Wong said he looks forward to pushing for more development on the City’s north side. “We are losing residential, commercial and industrial market to our surrounding towns. We keep pushing (development) to the southeast. People can get from Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds and Penhold to Queens Business Park five minutes faster than those living in Inglewood or Vanier in Red Deer,” he said.
Wong also indicated the ward system, which was rejected in a ballot question, would have helped with such a large number of candidates this year – 30 people tried for a seat on council.
Meanwhile, council newcomer Johnston said he is excited to join council.
“I’m feeling a mixture of extreme humility, relief, excitement and energy,” he said. “I just want to thank Red Deer and obviously thank all of my supporters. It’s been an awesome five months and I can’t wait to get to work.”
He added there are many issues he hopes to tackle in his first term on council.
“Downtown development and railyards would be critical. The north connector road is part of the equation in getting that piece right for the City,” he said. “If you look at what is ahead of us, people still expect us to spend wisely and when you think of our capital plan coming up and our budget coming up, I think the public will expect this new team to really pay attention to that as well as the bigger, broader issues.”
Lee said he was very humbled to see the support he was shown as the results came in Monday evening. “I stepped up on my social networking efforts, and really it was about doing the things that I learned on school board – engaging with people and meeting with them where they are. I think it made a huge difference – being out there and being accessible.”
Lee said he’s looking forward to building relationships with the rest of council and Mayor Tara Veer. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and I’m all about that – making the City a better place.”
Handley is also a newcomer to council, and the only person from the Red Deer First group to be successful in her bid for the post.
“I ran with Red Deer First – people supporting each other with a great team behind me, lots of help with sign repair and campaigning – so I think that helped having a good team behind me,” she said.
“A big thing for me is trying to get a good debt repayment strategy in place,” she added in terms of looking ahead. As to joining five incumbents, she noted, “They definitely have a lot of experience – I need to learn from them and work together as a group and collaborate.”
In addition, voters voiced their opinion when it came to the question posed on the ballot regarding a ward system. The question on the ballot asked if the City should have ward systems or not – 13,097 electors voted no and 5,130 voted yes.
Meanwhile, also elected to the public school board are Bev Manning, Bill Stuebing, Bill Christie, Cathy Peacocke, Jim Watters, Dianne Macaulay and Dick Lemke.
Elected to the Catholic School board are Adriana Lagrange, Anne Marie Watson, David Bouchard, Guy Pelletier and Murray Hollman.