Monday’s elections in the town and county of Ponoka produced unexpectedly interesting results with mayoralty hanging in the balance, pending a recount and both town and county councils welcoming an overwhelming majority of fresh faces, with only one incumbent retaining their seats in each of the governing bodies.
Councillor Rick Bonnett won the race for the position of mayor with a majority of only one vote, 960 against Doug Gill’s 959. Gill has applied in writing for an official recount of the votes as foreseen by the law. The result of the recount will not be known before noon on Wednesday, Oct. 23.
In the race for the town councillor seats, the results were declared as follows:
Carla Prediger: 1282
Sandra Lyon: 1268
Loanna Gulka: 1207
Mark Yaworski: 1164
Teri Underhill: 1142
Tim Falkiner: 932
Craig Saunders: 799
Lonnie Behm: 684
Dave McPherson: 231
According to these results, Prediger, Lyon, Gulka, Yaworski, Underhill and Falkiner are the new councillors of the Town of Ponoka, for the first time making women members a majority in the composition of that body.
Returning officer Brad Watson read the results not more than 20 minutes after the polls closed and congratulated the winners. The numbers were read off the electronic voting machine.
The voter turnout remained low, with about only 36 per cent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the Town of Ponoka elections. 1,849 voters went to the polls on Monday; this compares to three years ago when the number of total votes were only 1,581.
Councillor Rick Bonnett’s cellphone was ringing non-stop after the unofficial election results for the Town of Ponoka were announced. Bonnett said he thought the slight increase in voter turnout was the result of younger residents casting their votes. “Obviously the fact there was a mayoral race drew a lot of people.”
Bonnett was unsure whether to celebrate or wait to hear what Gill would do in this case. “Can you get any closer than that,” he asked.
“It’s too close to really say yet, because we could be looking at a recount,” Gill commented.
“Mr. Gill ran a superb campaign. Every door that I went to he had either been there or had left some information,” explained Bonnett.
He was pleased to see a new council and feels the new faces will bring changes to the town. He reiterated the importance of voting, especially as voting was as close as it was.
Gill congratulated Bonnett on the unofficial results, but said he intended to apply for a recount. “I respect the unofficial results…We’ll see what the official recount says,” he said.
He appreciated Bonnett’s hard fought and “cleanly run” campaign but said he remained concerned over some promises that Bonnett made while running.
“My disappointment is only overshadowed with concern of Ponoka,” he said.
Despite his worries, Gill feels voters made their voices heard Oct. 21. “The people have spoken and I have to respect that.”
Incumbent Loanna Gulka was grateful for a second term on council. “I’m excited to sit with just a young, energetic council. It’s going to be different,” she said
She was pleased to see an increase in voters over the last election and says council needs to hear from residents over their needs.
In the county elections, out of 5700 eligible voters only 1834 went to polls making the turnout slightly higher than the town elections at 37 per cent.
Unofficial results are as follows:
Nancy Hartford acclaimed
There was a second count for Division 1 “The scrutinizers had a different number than the clerks did,” Charlie Cutforth, the returning officer for the county elections stated.
According to these results, with the exception of Paul McLauchlin, all the members of the new county council are first time winners, including Nancy Hartford who won by acclamation.
“It (voter turnout) was actually good in a couple of areas,” said Cutforth. “It feels divisions 2 and 3 were better than the last election, but 1 wasn’t good; “Division 4, I think was down considerably.”
Winner of the county councillor race in Division 1, Bryce Liddle said “(I’m) pretty good, a little surprised but pretty good” as his first reaction after the announcement of the results.
“I was hoping for this, but I didn’t expect it.”
He said the next step was to meet with an almost completely new council and begin looking at a “fresh start”.
The only incumbent to be re-elected to the county council, Paul McLauchlin, was also surprised.
“It’s not what I expected, for sure,” he said.
“I didn’t expect to be the only incumbent retuning from the previous council’s ‘legacy.’”
“Those gentlemen put their heart into Ponoka County and it was nice to be mentored by those gentlemen.”
He said he was looking forward to working with the group of new councillors and helping them with their own learning curves.
Division 3 winner Doug Weir did not hide his joy: “I couldn’t be happier. We set out to win a campaign and we did. I had a good team,” he said.
The election process was an eye opener for Weir. “I think I’ll have an even bigger eye opener in the next two to three weeks.”
Weir said he had run to make the county better than it already was and that he felt his life would be “very different” for the next four years.
“It’ll be a huge learning curve for all of us,” he said.
— Ponoka News Staff