Voters have the last word

The 2010 election results are still not official but today there are opinions in every corner of the City as to what voters were trying to say Monday night.

There are some who may be hesitant to say the message was a call for meaningful change at City hall. They may add that change was going to happen naturally because two council seats were up for grabs due to the retirement of two long-time councillors.

But there is no doubt Red Deer City council will look a lot different for the next three years, and it’s fascinating to look at some of the individual stories from Monday night that make up the entire picture.

Voters said no to the comeback effort of Jeffrey Dawson, who before 2007 had been on council for 12 years. He campaigned on the belief that the City was dangerously in debt, and that he at least was the candidate who could help wrestle it under control. And voters were not convinced by the message of incumbent Gail Parks, who campaigned on the issue of greater City hall accountability in the budgetary process.

And who in this City was not surprised by the remarkable showing of Hilary Penko, who ran for mayor simply because she did not believe it served the public’s interest to have the highest elected official in Alberta’s third largest city acclaimed? She gave incumbent Morris Flewwelling a great fight from start to finish.

Although this will almost certainly be Flewwelling’s last term in public office Monday’s result will no doubt give him pause to seriously look at the way he has led the City since 2004. Since occupying the mayor’s chair Flewwelling has been legacy conscious and Monday’s result just might force him to at least tweak the way his style has worked for citizens.

Voters also decided to elect three newcomers to council, and it is an interesting mix.

They liked the youth and vitality of Chris Stephan, the homegrown candidate with a strong lean towards fiscal conservatism. He is big on law and order, and will no doubt push hard for citizens’ expectations to have a safe and secure City.

But voters also elected Dianne Wyntjes, a candidate who ran a brilliant heart and soul campaign and who promises to be a champion for the vulnerable in the City.

And then there is Paul Harris, a downtown businessman and strong advocate for the arts community, who dared to take a major strategic risk by sending a strong environmental message that he would not employ unsightly campaign signage.

Perhaps it is too early to illustrate any voters’ message at all. But it would be wise for council veterans to pause, and then remember that voters always have the final say on election day.

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