Peter Lozinski and Kelly Skjerven, Daily Herald
Prince Albert voters stuck with what they knew in an unconventional election Monday.
Voters returned six incumbents to city council, with Charlene Miller (Ward 1), Terra Lennox-Zepp (Ward 2), Don Cody (Ward 4), Dennis Ogrodnick (Ward 5) and Blake Edwards all winning their races Monday night. Ted Zurakowski was previously acclaimed for Ward 8. It’s the second consecutive election that Zurakowski has won by acclamation.
Only one incumbent contesting his seat lost Monday, as first-term councillor Evert Botha came in second in a tight Ward 3 race where less than 100 votes separated the three contenders.
CUPE representative and city worker Tony Head came in first in that race, defeating both Botha and Lee Atkinson, who lost to Botha four years ago.
Head finished with 302 votes, while Botha earned 237 and Atkinson 224.
Head said the news that he won the council race was “fantastic.
“I’m honoured that P.A. residents are putting their faith and trust in me,” he said.
“I definitely have to do well by my constituents and the residents of Ward 3. I’m very honoured and proud.”
Head worked for the city for 11 years in the collections and distribution department before becoming a national representative for CUPE. That’s the position he’s held for nine years, representing the needs of city workers.
When he launched his campaign, Head said there were a lot of areas the city could improve upon from transparency to job creation to caring for the city’s most vulnerable. Head committed to spending taxpayers’ money wisely to better deliver services for residents. He said the city, though, needs to take the lead on addressing social issues and work hard at innovative ideas to tackle community safety, housing and poverty.
“Youth are our future,” Head said. “I want to invest in programs and services for young people. It’s important that we invest in our future and our children’s future and not just focus on the next four years. We need to present alternatives for individuals, for youth. I want to make sure that people are feeling that they have positive alternatives … (by) funding youth programs.”
The other newcomer to council is Dawn Kilmer, who won Ward 7 after Dennis Nowoselsky launched a bid for mayor. He finished a distant third. Nowoselsky ran for mayor this year and finished a distant third.
Kilmer, a retired principal, took the ward seat over mental health counsellor Diana Wooden.
“The journey’s been such a good one and I’ve learned so much,” Kilmer said.
“Big thanks to everyone who helped me through this process and I really appreciate the team effort and all the people who have faith in me.”
The results mean more diversity at city hall. Head is Indigenous, and Kilmer’s election means that one-third of councillors identify as women.
Both winners of the closest races of the night said what made the difference was the ability to connect with prospective voters right on the doorsteps.
“I was able to meet residents and put a face to my name,” Head said. Lennox-Zepp came to a similar conclusion.
“I’ve been out door-knocking daily for the 30 days of the election campaign. That was a key piece of me. It’s really important to take the time to go where people are, speak to them and hear from them so I can do a better job of representing them,” she said.
Lennox-Zepp said she’s “humbled” by the opportunity to represent her ward again, and that she’s “willing to put in the work that’s necessary. I believe it’s important to continue to earn these votes over the next four years,” she said.
Lennox-Zepp said she intends to keep using social media as a tool to inform residents of what’s on the agenda before council votes. She said ward residents said on the doorstep that they appreciated her efforts to inform them before items head to a vote at the council table.
Lennox-Zepp said she respects the electoral process and she’s dedicated to representing the entire ward and all its residents.
“Regardless of how someone voted, I look forward to working with all residents because I believe that makes us stronger if we can move forward with common improvement,” she said.
The only other race with more than two candidates, Ward 4, saw Don Cody come away with 549 votes. Margaret Duncombe earned 274 and Mira Lewis had her name marked 186 times.
Cody said he was “elated” with the results.
“I think it was a great win for us incumbents,” he said. “The mayor is in and I think it’s a fantastic win and one that I think I can be proud of. I think the public will find that when they see all of the good work that we’ve done in the past we’ll continue to be done in the future.”
Fellow incumbents Ogrodnick and Edwards won strong mandates, as Ogrodnick defeated challenger Don Wood 870 to 326 and Edwards defeated former Ward 6 councillor Martin Ring 846-425. Ring served the ward up until 2016 when he launched an unsuccessful bid for mayor.
“I feel really honoured that the residents of Ward 5 once again put their faith in me to represent them at city hall,” Ogrodnick said. “It’s just so humbling.”
Edwards said he was relieved the election was over and that he’s “ready to go on with the next four years of hard work.”
He thanked residents for supporting him and said he looks forward to representing them again. He celebrated the win with a small group of his family.
Ward 1 incumbent Charlene Miller also thanked voters for their continued support.
“I would like to thank the residents of ward 1 for coming out to vote and having the confidence in me to represent them once again,” Miller said. She promised to continue to be accessible to Ward 1 residents.
“ I will work hard to make sure I represent them fairly and properly and continue to be accountable to them.”
Turnout was lower than the previous city election. While final numbers weren’t available, the mayoral race saw 7,236 votes cast — a 29 per cent decrease from 2016 when 10,233 votes were cast. Turnout may have been affected by a weekend snowstorm that made getting around the city Monday tough.
While some cities opted to postpone their elections, Prince Albert went ahead as usual.
Voter turnout may have also been affected by COVID-19 fears. More voting options were available this year, including expanded mail-in voting and advanced drive-thru polls.
Full preliminary results:
Charlene Miller (incumbent) — 371
Daniel Brown — 188
Terra Lennox-Zepp (incumbent) — 358
Dana Dirks — 212
Devin Gorder — 186
Kim Conarroe — 98
Tony Head — 302
Evert Botha (incumbent) — 237
Lee Atkinson — 224
Don Cody (incumbent) — 549
Margaret Duncombe — 274
Mira Lewis — 186
Dennis Ogrodnick (incumbent) — 870
Don Wood — 326
Blake Edwards (incumbent) — 846
Martin Ring — 425
Dawn Kilmer — 453
Diana Wooden —206