As candidates in Ponoka’s municipal election campaign went door to door, voters told them they wanted change.
On Oct. 18 voters turned their words into action.
Five incumbents were seeking re-election, only two will return to the council chamber.
Elected were: Dr. Izak van der Westhuizen, 1,052; Beva Hamilton, 897; Loanna Gulka, 880; incumbent Doug Gill, 873; Rick Bonnett, 839; and incumbent John Jacobs, 688. Mayor Larry Henkelman was acclaimed.
Defeated were: James Nakoneshny, 681; incumbent Jack Surbey, 665; incumbent Drew Dougherty, 645; incumbent Jerry Seimens, 474, Julian Hudson, 303; and Dave MacPherson, 133.
Mayor Larry Henkelman was not surprised newcomers to local politics won four of the six seats. And he was glad to see two women elected. Coun. Marg Barr opted not to seek re-election.
He heard from residents they wanted some fresh faces and new ideas around the council table. “But with elections you never know until the votes are in.”
As mayor, he’ll be taking a lead role in seeing that councillors work together to advance the community’s agenda — whatever it will be. A new council may have priorities different from the group that was just weeks away from considering its 2011 budget estimates.
Henkelman said he needs to understand the personalities and goals for the new councillors to be able to manage council meetings successfully.
Coun. John Jacobs said it’s now up to the members of this new council to show voters they made the right decisions.
“You have to start working on team building right after the election,” he said. “I’m confident we will be able to work together.”
Dr. Izak van der Westhuizen, the top vote-getter, with the support of 1,052 ballots, was humbled by his showing.
“It was a surprise to me to have the most votes, at the same time, I’m grateful to the people of the community for their support.”
He said members of the new council expressed, to some degree, a desire for change, and improving the town’s relationship with residents. “I’m looking forward to working on improving communication with town council and residents.”
Councillors have different ideas and attitudes about how the town should change and grow. “Change is not going to happen overnight.”
Loanna Gulka was “quite shocked” that three incumbents were defeated. Judging by comments she heard on the campaign trail, change was on voters’ minds “but I told people they had to prove it by voting.”
She said it wouldn’t have been fair to the community to have six rookie councillors. “We have an incredible learning curve. I’m just gratified there are two incumbents there.
“I think they’re very good leaders,” she said of Jacobs and Doug Gill. “I’m very happy to be working with them.”
She said the loudest message the results sends is the public’s demand for an open and transparent government, and improved communication between the town and residents.
On other ballots…
School board chairs Lori Jess, Wolf Creek Public Schools, and Maria Lentz, St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Schools, were acclaimed.
All five Ponoka County councillors were returned to office. Division 1 Coun. Gordon Svenningsen and division 5 Coun. Keith Beebe were acclaimed. In division 2, incumbent Gawney Hinkley earned 254 votes, Curtis Emes, 164, and Rick Angeltvedt, 68; in division 3, incumbent George Verheire received 315 votes, Frank Cissell, 165, and Bruce Miller, 143; in division 4 incumbent Paul McLaughlin garnered 192 votes to Reini Wright’s 89.