Gilbert Plains-area farmer and mother of four Charlene Gulak now takes a seat around a council table of almost entirely new faces in the Rural Municipality of Gilbert Plains.
The 37-year-old is among six of seven new councillors here, who, in their first bids for office, beat out incumbents or were acclaimed during municipal elections last week.
Gulak also becomes the first female councillor to serve on the Parkland-area municipality, saying earlier this fall she’d put her name in, in hopes of bringing more diversity and new perspectives to the municipal voice.
Gilbert Plains’ upset is just one of many local election stories following municipal elections Oct. 27. Manitobans selected candidates in 161 municipalities. Thirty-three councils of the total 197 incorporated municipalities were returned to office by acclamation.
NO TRENDS EVIDENT YET
There’s no clear election trends evident yet, with data on voter turnout or candidate turnover yet to be analyzed, said Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) executive director Joe Masi.
But anecdotally it does appear more people headed to the polls compared to 2006 and that certain “hot spots” showed their reeves, mayors and councillors the door.
“I think there’s an element of strong desire for change, and people unhappy in some areas certainly did vote people out,” Masi said.
Notably, several heads of councils have changed, he added.
“It’s interesting that some of the mayors of the larger centres lost,” he said.
“It certainly seems like there’s some changes at the head of councils.”
Brandon incumbent Mayor Dave Burgess lost to new candidate Shari Decter-Hirst while two Dauphin front-runners, former federal MP Inky Mark and mayoral incumbent Alex Paul conceded defeat to new candidate Eric Irwin.
In Selkirk, incumbent Mayor Dave Bell lost the seat to Larry Johannson while Earl Porter, a new candidate, won the three-person race for the mayoral seat in Portage la Prairie. He takes over from Ken Brennan who did not seek re-election. Thompson and Winkler mayors have been returned to office with Tim Johnston re-elected in Thompson and Martin Harder acclaimed in Winkler.
Several smaller rural municipalities also saw heads of councils go, including Vince Heaman in western Manitoba’s R. M. of Wallace who lost the reeve’s seat in a three-person race.
High winds, icy driving conditions and closure of Hwy. 1 west of Virden on voting day could have crimped voter turnout but didn’t appear to, said R. M. of Wallace CAO Don Stephenson.
“Our turnout was actually pretty good. We had over 50 per cent (turnout) in all of our sites and in one site we had 78 per cent,” said Stephenson. “We’ve had worse turnouts in better weather.”
Winnipegosis and R. M. of Mossey River residents also persevered to get to the ballot box, with elections happening at the local hall, while strong winds pushed water from Lake Winnipegosis inland, flooding properties and Emergency Measures Organization officials met at the village office to deal with a state of emergency.
Likewise, rough weather also accompanied elections in Gimli and R. M. of St. Clements where newly elected council’s first order of business was to declare local states of emergency the following day.
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities has posted all election results on its website at http://www.amm.mb.ca/elec tion_2010.cfm.
About a third of school trustees have been acclaimed in 2010, with no contests for 115 of 315 seats among the 33 school divisions.
Feedback solicited by the Manitoba School Board Association (MSBA) through distribution of their pamphlet urging Manitobans to take more interest in school board elections shows voters’ main complaint about school board elections is lacking information to make informed choices when casting ballots.
Voter turnout at school board elections “has fallen significantly in recent years,” an MSBA blog noted.
School board election results are found at www.mbschoolboards.ca.