The new mayor and council is filled with new faces, returning seats, and two former councillors re-elected around five years since they left municipal politics.
On Monday, Don Scott was “unofficially” named Mayor-elect – beating Allan Grandison, Tony Needham, and Allan Vinni.
Scott received 8,911 votes, while Grandison got 3,160 votes, Tony Needham finished third with 650 votes, while Allan Vinni came in with 259 votes.
Joining Scott on council will be Wood Buffalo’s longest serving councillor Phil Meagher as he gets set for his eighth term.
Meagher made a brief appearance at Sociables where Scott held his campaign wrap up. He told reporters that council needs to be prepared for a “highway ahead.”
“I’ve been more optimistic going into other terms but this one with Bill 21, it’s going to be very trying and enjoy what your doing tonight (Monday) because the next few weeks will get pretty serious.”
He notes Bill 21 will take most of council’s attention but early on he wants to see them focus on getting ready for the Alberta Winter Games and improving the lives of seniors in the RMWB.
“I know that Lance Bussieres didn’t make it and I think the seniors look to Lance as being their number one representative on council but Lance and I talked and we’re going to make sure the seniors are taken care of and we get these Alberta Winter Games under our belts.”
Meagher wasn’t the only Ward 1 councillor to be re-elected as Keith McGrath was voted in for his second straight term.
“People that know me know that it’s not hard to get choked up when you see this kind of support and being what we’ve been through personally and professionally over the last four years – humble by the support and the trust people had put in me,’ said McGrath.
Heading into the new term, he says his first focuses will be reconciliation with the rural population, getting out of the way of the private sector, and finding ways to support industry and its employees.
“Industry is our biggest stakeholder and without industry you don’t see those hockey teams and rec centres – people take for granted what industry and their employees do but I believe at the end of the day they’re our greatest assets and we need to keep on harvesting that energy and positive relationships with the industry and their stakeholders.
McGrath also thanked Mayor Melissa Blake, Tyran Ault, Sheldon Germain, Colleen Tatum, Lance Bussieres, and Julia Cardinal for their service in public office over the past four-years.
Bussieres and Cardinal were seeking re-election but just missed out after finishing seventh and third in Ward 1 and 2.
McGrath was also elected to the Fort McMurray Catholic School District Board.
Meanwhile, also returning is former councillor Mike Allen.
This will be his third-term after serving from 2007-12 with his last term ending short after being elected as MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.
Allen says he’s simply excited to be back.
“I’m excited to see the team that was elected as I believe they are a strong set of people – we have a good mix of experience and new blood, some diverse ideas coming in from all Wards – I’m just looking forward to us getting into some team building, setting our priorities and our first budget.”
He believes his first focus should be downtown revitalization as himself and other councillor-elects included the issue in their platform.
“I think that’s going to probably be a big focus but at the end of the day when you’re on a municipal council – there is a lot of issues that hit you every week and we’ll take priority over what’s hitting us at the time.”
The remaining Ward 1 seats will be filled with new faces eager to get their first chance in municipal politics.
Jeff Peddle, Verna Murphy, and Krista Balsom will each serve their first term.
Balsom made an appearance at Sociables shortly after Scott was elected and spoke to around 150 people packed into the building.
Despite many of the councillor-elects having different focuses moving forward- she says they will be able to work together and make much needed changes.
“I think we got a really great mix of people with our incumbents, new blood and new fresh faces and I think will be able to work really well together to bring a mix of memory and knowledge but enough fresh faces to really make an impact and make some of the changes the community would really like to see.”
When asked what she wants council to focus on first – she highlighted multiple issues that were apart of her campaign.
“We’re going to look at the fiscal responsibilities that we’re going to have as a new council while balancing the need to revitalize downtown, build economic development to build a really strong future for our community while keeping things inclusive and really building that vibrant community that we’re after.”
Verna Murphy was elected in her second try at council.
Back in 2015, she lost in a by-election to Colleen Tatum who lost her seat in the 2013 election after winning a previous by-election in 2012.
In Murphy’s words – there was a sense of relief once the “unofficial” results came in.
“It was a relief to get in this time and I’m just hoping that I can prove myself over the next four-years.”
Murphy, a local longtime writer, says she’s excited to sit on the other side of the table and believes improving communication between the municipality and the public is an important step moving forward.
“I’m really looking forward to helping the citizens engage with our municipal government because the decisions that we make affect their lives almost immediately and I think if they feel that were accessible they will engage better as well and it will be a healthier relationship moving forward.”
Bill 21, the upcoming budget, and getting accustomed to the new job are her main priorities in first few months.
As for Peddle, after quitting his full-time job with On-Site Security at the Syncrude Towers to focus solely on council – the gamble has paid off.
He received the second most votes in Ward 1 only behind Meagher.
“The support I received was over the top and I think the people have spoken and change is needed.”
Peddle notes the most important thing the region needs is a council that works together to help solve different problems across Wood Buffalo.
In his mind, council needs to set their priorities on the re-development of the Lower Townsite and taxing industry to help reduce fly-in-fly-out.
Meanwhile, in Ward 2, incumbent Claris Voyageur was re-elected, this time for a full term after she won a by-election during the last term – replacing her late partner John Chadi. The other seat will be filled by John Bruce Inglis.
In Ward 3, Sheila Lalonde will serve as the only representative for Draper and Saprae Creek after narrowly beating Brad Lucier by 19 votes.
While, Jane Stroud will serve as Ward 4’s councillor for the third straight term – defeating Kevin Tremblay.