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Four new faces on council

St. Albert voters selected four new faces and two familiar ones to sit on city council for the next three years while ousting two incumbents.

St. Albert voters selected four new faces and two familiar ones to sit on city council for the next three years while ousting two incumbents.

Newcomers Cathy Heron, Cam MacKay and Malcolm Parker captured the top three spots, with veteran Len Bracko getting the nod for a fifth term. Newcomer Wes Brodhead came next followed by Roger Lemieux, who narrowly captured the sixth seat.

Three-term councillor James Burrows and single-term incumbent Gareth Jones both finished out of the running.

Heron was the top vote getter with 9,904 votes.

"I'm overjoyed. I'm so excited right now," she said moments after thanking her campaign team. "I didn't think I'd come in first."

She credited her victory to having broad appeal, even among those who didn't rank her as their top choice.

"I ran a campaign that was not confrontational. I didn't criticize the current council," she said.

She wasn't sure if there was additional pressure from earning the most votes.

"Nobody knows what kind of councillor I'm going to be. I don't even know but I'll be honest. So there's a little bit of pressure to keep that up," she said. "I don't want to turn into the typical politician that no one likes."

Cam MacKay was the next highest vote getter, with 7,565. Parker came next with 7,030 followed by Bracko with 6,590, Brodhead with 6,467 and Lemieux with 6,176.

Burrows finished just 14 votes behind Lemieux, with 6,162. Jones was next with 5,893.

Rounding out the results were Stanley Haroun (5,297), James Van Damme (4,834), Norm Harley (4,633), Robyn Morrison (4,627) and Aisling Pollard-Kientzel (2,897).

Talking to people key

MacKay was low-key about earning the second-most votes.

"I feel pretty good and I feel glad for all the people that I represent," he said. "I'm very happy but [there's] also a lot of responsibility."

He said he was surprised to have ranked so highly.

"Yeah, but funny things happen when you go out and talk to the average person," he said.

Parker, in his third election, was a secure choice at number three after finishing 140 votes shy of a seat in 2007.

The key this time, he said, was an increase in all aspects of his campaign — event attendance, advertising, signage and door knocking.

After knocking on 1,100 doors, Parker came away with a good feeling about his push for more economic development in St. Albert to lessen the burden on residential taxpayers. This is an issue he'd like to champion now that he's on council.

"I think there's an appetite out there for the public to see some economic development," Parker said. "I didn't have anyone say to me, 'we don't want it.'"

Incumbent Len Bracko slipped to fifth place after being the number two choice in 2007. He begins his fifth term.

"I'd like to see us decide whether or not to bring LRT to downtown St. Albert," he said.

The new council will have a number of issues to deal with, many of them concerning how to grow and develop in the future, he said.

"We're kind of in between and we need to decide what we want to be when we grow up," Bracko said.

Brodhead was obviously pleased to capture the fifth spot after finishing 10th in 2007.

"Exhilarated and honoured are the two words that I would use," he said moments after the results were final. "My heart hasn't stopped pounding yet."

Lemieux scored a 14-vote "squeaker" victory over fellow incumbent Burrows to earn the final seat.

"There's an old saying that I once heard … the person that finished last in med school is still called a doctor," Lemieux said.

Burrows had been on council since 2001. He said he wouldn't ask for a recount.

"Obviously I'm disappointed but the voters are never wrong," Burrows said. "I'm very proud of my last nine years."

Jones had served one term after previously failing three times and was disappointed with Monday's loss.

"I knew there [was the possibility for a] couple of surprises. I just felt that as a gut feeling," Jones said. "As far as I'm concerned it's not the end of life."

Lemieux said Jones does a lot of hard work for the community behind the scenes.

"In my mind the city has lost a really good diplomat, a good politician in Gareth Jones," Lemieux said.

Haroun found himself out in the cold for the second consecutive election. He said the new line-up gives him hope that council will be willing to address St. Albert's financial crisis but also be more understanding toward residents' concerns in issues that affect neighbourhoods.

"I think the voters have spoken very clearly by voting for four new council members," he said.

Council shakeup

Newly re-elected Mayor Nolan Crouse planned to speak individually with all the new councillors in the two days following the election. On Friday a group meeting will begin to get the newcomers up to speed in preparation for a run at the budget in about 10 days, he said.

Council's decision to move forward on downtown redevelopment and the controversial Arlington Drive proposal likely had a bearing on the vote, Crouse said.

"Probably you have more casualties by dealing with it before the election," he said.

With two of four incumbents voted out, Crouse thinks council paid a price for its focus on affordable housing.

"We said affordable housing was going to be important to this council," he said. "We've probably done 10 things for affordable housing. I don't think it helped us at the polls. So is affordable housing really a priority to this community? I think that's going to be a key question."

Overall, he felt the new additions to council were all strong.

"By itself, it's a strong council," Crouse said. "That's a very good message."

Jones stood by council's call to make important decisions just prior to the election, particularly on the Arlington Drive issue, since council had started the process and had put so many hours into it.

"If we hurt ourselves because we had the courage to finalize a long-standing debate and make a decision that we were elected for, well that be it," Jones said.