Youthful council elected by St. Albert

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Nolan Crouse wins third mayoral term, three incumbents returning to council chambers

St. Albert has returned Nolan Crouse to the mayor’s chair for a third term, albeit with a smaller margin than in 2010.

“I’m really pleased at the fact that the positive message continues to be told,” Crouse said in an interview at his results party held at the St. Albert Inn and Suites on Monday night.

According to the unofficial results, Crouse beat challenger Shelley Biermanski by about 1,900 votes, garnering 9,900 to Biermanski’s 8,061. Turnout was up compared to 2010, with the unofficial numbers showing 38.13 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot this year. In 2010, 34.16 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls.

Though Crouse’s margin of victory was smaller – Biermanski managed to gain 45 per cent of the vote after getting 32 per cent in 2010 – he said the community has given him a mandate to lead council for another four years.

Crouse’s victory party saw several candidates attend, along with many members of the community who gathered to watch the numbers come in. When the city website ceased working for a time – city spokesperson Marci Ng said it was a server issue – the mayor and others resorted to updating numbers for council, the Catholic and public school board trustees and the mayoral race on a whiteboard. Ng said the city uses a third-party provider for the server and as of Tuesday morning, it wasn’t determined what exactly had gone awry.

Councillor-elects are incumbents Cathy Heron, Wes Brodhead, Cam MacKay, and rookies Sheena Hughes, Tim Osborne and Gilles Prefontaine.

Crouse immediately noted the youth of the council, where only he and Brodhead are in their 50s.

“That’s probably the most striking thing about it,” Crouse said. “It’s a very young council. I’m the oldest.”

Heron was at the St. Albert Inn and finished at the top of the pack, with unofficial results showing her getting 10,268, more than anybody else in the city’s civic election.

“It makes me feel like I did something right,” Heron said Monday night. She started off the evening nervous but once all polls were reporting, she was “overjoyed” to win her second term. Now an experienced councillor, she said she’s ready to jump into this council’s term “with two feet.”

“I think we’re going to have to build some bridges,” Heron said of the new council’s makeup.

Brodhead was also at Crouse’s results party and said he was “relieved” to be re-elected, coming in fifth with 6,879 votes.

“I’ve got more votes than I did the last time,” Brodhead said. “Being re-elected is a reaffirmation of my body of work.”

The tone of the election and the focus on city spending is a ‘heads-up’ to this council that they need to be fiscally responsible, Brodhead said.

Gilles Prefontaine, who came sixth with 6,375 votes, came by Crouse’s results party from his own after the results were in.

“I knew it was going to be tight,” Prefontaine said.

His first steps will be to go to orientation and start budget deliberations, but he said he’ll also start trying to pursue some of his platform items, like affordable living in St. Albert.

Tim Osborne, whose 6,946 votes gave him fourth place, also swung by the results party from his own celebration. He said he’d been “feeling pretty good” about his chances.

The oft-mentioned blog post about council agenda items Osborne suggested during the campaign will happen, he said. First on his agenda will be learning his new role and tackling budget.

“It’s going to be a challenge and I’m ready for it,” Osborne said.

Sheena Hughes, who was third with 7,128 votes, was reached by phone on Monday night. She said she’s excited to have won a seat and is looking forward to the next four years.

“I’m humbled,” she said of having so many people support her. Like her fellow councillor-elects, she will be dealing with budget in early November. She said council will have to evaluate it and try and make some positive changes.

Cam MacKay finished second as he did in 2010, though this year he received 9,101 votes.

“I gained 1,600 votes from last time,” he said when reached on Tuesday morning. “I’m really pleased about that. It shows a lot of trust.”

MacKay will be ready for budget, he said. Budget deliberations are set to kick off Nov. 12 with a presentation from city manager Patrick Draper and continue throughout November and December, with town hall meetings scheduled for Nov. 13, 14 and 15.

Ng said council orientation will be held today and tomorrow, with a mock council meeting on Nov. 1 and then the swearing-in and organizational meeting held on Nov. 4.

Biermanski said on Tuesday morning she was disappointed by the result. She said she’s only happy with two of the elected councillors and said the results are “not good for St. Albert.” She expressed appreciation for the support that was shown to her by voters and encouraged residents to “get out there and find out about the city” and keep council accountable.

“Keep on top of them, they’re accountable, keep an interest in what’s going on down there,” Biermanski said.

The official results of the municipal election will be released after noon on Oct. 25. All the results listed in this story are unofficial until they are confirmed on Friday.

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