Change not in the cards, as valley votes back incumbents

Unofficial results are in for this past weekend's municipal elections.

Unofficial results are in for this past weekend’s municipal elections, and the valley has voted resoundingly to keep things the way they are, with incumbents returning to office in every race.

In the only mayoral race in the valley, incumbent Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras beat challenger Dean Midyette 200 votes to 83 votes. For Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F, incumbent director Wendy Booth held off newcomer Andrea Dunlop, 396 votes to 252.

It’s a great feeling to be able to continue representing the residents of Area F. I’m looking forward to working with all the community groups to be the best we can be,” said Booth. “I appreciate and thank all those that took the time to vote, and thanks to Andrea Dunlop for putting her name forward.”

It’s been an interesting ride (running for office),” said Dunlop. “I congratulate Wendy, I hope she has a good four years and that she keeps the importance of a publicly-owned water system (for Windermere) and the value of the abattoir to the valley in mind.”

In Area F voting, Dunlop came out ahead at the Windermere and Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce polling stations, while Booth came out on top at the Fairmont polling station, and in mail-in and advance voting.

I’m excited, of course, and looking forward to working with the new council to finish our ongoing projects and start new ones,” said Juras, speaking of being re-elected in Canal Flats.

Congratulations to Ute and the four councillors elected. I know they’ll work hard to make Canal Flats a better community,” said Midyette.

With Juras and Booth re-elected, the five Upper Columbia Valley seats at the RDEK board of directors will be almost unchanged, with Juras and Booth re-joined by acclaimed incumbent Invermere mayor Gerry Taft and acclaimed incumbent RDEK Area G director Gerry Wilkie. Even acclaimed new Radium Hot Springs mayor Clara Reinhardt (who takes over from outgoing Radium mayor Dee Conklin) is already a familiar face there, since she has acted as an alternate for Conklin at RDEK directors meetings in the past.

Voter turnout in Invermere — the only valley municipality to go to the polls in both of the past two municipal elections — was down dramatically from the 2011 election, with 760 of 2375 eligible voters (32 per cent) voting this year. In the 2011 Invermere election, which had two candidates running for mayor and 11 council candidates, voter turnout was 50.2 per cent with 1,112 of 2,213 eligible voters casting a ballot.

In Canal Flats, 286 of 646 (or 44 per cent) of eligible voters turned out. There was no Canal Fats vote in 2011, when all candidates were acclaimed.

Invermere’s low voter turnout and lower number of candidates this year was in contrast to neighbouring Kootenay communities. Golden with two mayor candidates and 12 council candidates had a 43 per cent voter turnout; Kimberley had three mayor candidates, eight council candidates, and a 50 per cent voter turnout; Cranbrook with three mayor candidates and 16 council candidates had just under a 40 per cent voter turnout; and Creston had five mayor candidates, 16 council candidates, and a 44 per cent voter turnout.

The Upper Columbia Valley electorate’s desire to avoid change was also apparent in both councillor elections in the valley. All three Invermere councillors seeking re-election succeeded and the fourth councillor, Al Miller, is again a familiar face, having previously served on council from 2008 to 2011. The only true newcomer to the Invermere council election, Kayja Becker, garnered the fewest votes. Results for Invermere were (elected) Justin Atterbury (608 votes), Greg Anderson (547 votes), Al Miller (522 votes), Paul Denchuk (453 votes); and (not elected) Kayja Becker (429 votes).

It feels good to be re-elected,” said Atterbury. “It was a good group of candidates, so whoever got in was going to form a good council. We’ll be able to continue with a lot of our projects and start new ones.”

In the Canal Flats council election, both incumbents in the running (Paul Marcil and Marie Delorme) also were re-elected. Although newcomer Erin Gornik earned the most votes, the other two non-incumbents were at the bottom of the poll. Results for Canal Flats were (elected) Erin Gornik (221 votes), Paul Marchil (211 votes), Marie Delorme (210 votes), Karl Sterzer (181 votes); and (not elected) Roy Webb (148 votes).

It’s great to have two people coming back to council, that gives us some continuity,” said Juras. “It looks like we a have a diverse council and it will be great to work with all of them.”

“I was happy to see how many people voted this election. And as for the number of votes I received, I am proud that so many put their trust in me for this term. I am excited to embark on this new adventure,” said Gornik.

In the only school board trustee election vote in the valley — that for Area Rocky Mountain School District 6’s Trustee Electoral Area 4 (which is comprised of Canal Flats and RDEK Area F) — voters also decided against change, bringing back incumbent Amber Byklum, who beat challenger Cory Stanbury 482 votes to 289.

I am happy and really excited to continue for the next four years,” said Byklum, adding she wanted to thank the Village of Canal Flats for its overwhelming support.

Byklum, who is from Canal Flats, carried substantially more votes than Stanbury in Canal Flats, while Stanbury, who is from Fairmont, was ahead of Byklum in votes at the Fairmont and Windermere polling stations.

Eligible voters figures from RDEK Area F and Trustee Electoral 4 were not available by the Valley Echo’s Monday press time.