Balanko, Boutestein, Dafoe, Giffin, Hall, Richardson elected to Morinville council

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Morinville now has four new faces on council.

Some 1,449 people cast their vote for town council Monday night in Morinville, or about 23 per cent of the town’s voting population.

The unofficial results showed that Rebecca Balanko, Nicole Boutestein, Stephen Dafoe, Lawrence Giffin, Sarah Hall, and Scott Richardson had been elected to council.

Mayor-elect Barry Turner, who was acclaimed, said he was very pleased with this outcome.

“I knew going in that great candidates had stepped forward,” he said, and that Morinville would end up with a strong team no matter what happened.

“I look forward to working with everyone.”

He also thanked candidate Neil McDougall for throwing his hat into the ring so the town would actually have an election, saying that it allowed the community to have a good conversation.

McDougall, who came last with 531 votes, said he was not upset that he lost and had found the election to be an exhilarating experience.

“I’ll have more time to do whatever I want to do for the next four years,” he quipped.

Winners’ circle

Dafoe was the top vote-getter in the election, winning the support of about 75 per cent of participating voters (1,084 votes).

Dafoe said he took this as a vote of confidence and a sign that town residents appreciated what he had done in his first term, as he won his first election with just 40 per cent of the vote.

“For a guy who was pretty sure he might come last due to low voter turnout, I’m absolutely over the moon.”

Dafoe said he was saddened but not surprised by the turnout, which was far below the 40-some per cent of the last two general elections, and chalked it up to the small number of candidates, the lack of a mayoral race, and general absence of hot issues.

Coming in second place was Boutestein with some 1,063 votes.

“It’s just a number,” she said, noting how close she was to Dafoe, and she was just honoured to be re-elected.

“I’m going to work hard for those that voted for me and even harder for those that didn’t.”

Richardson, who placed third with 999 votes and first amongst the newcomers, said he was excited by these results.

“I’m really excited to get started and looking forward to the next four years.”

Balanko said she was honoured and elated that she had been elected, and joked that 855 (her vote count) was her new favourite number.

“This is just a wonderful day.”

Hall thanked her supporters and said her fifth-place finish (821 votes) was still sinking in Monday night. Giffin placed sixth with 650 votes.

What’s next

Turner said council’s next priority would be to train up its new councillors and create a strategic plan.

It’s a huge learning curve to get on council, said Boutestein, who suspected she would have to help mentor many of the newcomers. After orientation, council would have to work on an interim and then an actual budget.

Dafoe praised the civil tone of the town’s election, especially compared to that of Sturgeon County’s.

“I think our harshest criticism of one another was ‘I disagree with that opinion and here’s why.’”

Boutestein said the candidates were all very supportive of each other, and predicted that the new council would make a great team going forward.

Balanko, Boutestein and Dafoe said council’s first job would be to work on getting a new chief administrative officer to replace the outgoing Andy Isbister. While candidates reported hearing few burning issues on the campaign trail, Dafoe said council needed to step up its communication efforts, as some residents seemed not to know that many of their concerns (such as the need for a youth centre) had already been addressed.

The new council will be sworn in on Oct. 24.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.