Council incumbents dominate at the polls
Red Deerians clung tightly to all five council incumbents in Monday’s civic election.
Dianne Wyntjes, Buck Buchanan, Lynne Mulder, Frank Wong and Paul Harris were all re-elected to Red Deer city council.
That left three seats open to new candidates Lawrence Lee, Ken Johnston and Tanya Handley.
Wyntjes received the most votes with 9,840, followed by Buchanan (8,434), Lee (8,406), Mulder (8,341), Wong (8,018), Johnston (7,134), Harris (6,631) and Handley (6,622).
Dennis Moffat, the oldest candidate at 80, and a former councillor, did not get elected but took the ninth position with 5,437 votes.
Buchanan said voters were probably overwhelmed with the record slate of 30 candidates and had a fear of the unknown.
“I think there was a certain amount of angst in regards to some the Red Deer First people. I think there was this, ‘We don’t want this because we just don’t know about it,’ ” said Buchanan, a second-term councillor.
“I think that helped the incumbents to a certain degree. We know these guys.”
Red Deer First launched their campaign early and was the first of its kind in a Red Deer municipal election. The six candidates shared the same principles of fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability, economic development, safer streets and quality of life.
Red Deer First member Handley said campaigning as team was unique and helped her win.
“The way I campaigned was a little different than 24 of the candidates. I had a great team behind me. Lots of help with sign repair and campaigning,” Handley said.
But it was still a surprise to win, she said.
“My head is spinning a little right now. I don’t know how much sleep I’ll get tonight.”
She said joining the five incumbents will be an “interesting proposition.”
“They definitely have a lot of experience. I certainly need to learn from them and work together as a group and collaborate.”
Harris said he was a little bit nervous looking at who will make up the city council.
“There seems to be a little bit of a divide between progressive people and people who are regressive. Now is going to have to be the time to build some consensus and make sure that we can articulate why things need to be done and how they’re going to help the city,” said Harris, who has been on council for two terms.
He was pleased fellow incumbents were re-elected and also excited to have new faces.
Mulder, who will begin her third term on council, said she was also glad the incumbents were coming back along with some new blood.
She said running against 30 candidates was not much different from running against 25 candidates in 2004, when she was first elected.
It’s hard for the candidates to get to know each other when there are so many, which changes the flavour of the campaign, she said.
“It was an interesting election. There was a lot more negativity, which I’m not used to,” Mulder said.
Wyntjes said she was glad to see all the incumbents return.
“We run individually as candidates, but now after the council is determined and sworn in, we have to come together to get the work done.”
Lee said it was a daunting slate of candidates and voters had to decide if they really wanted to see a radical change on council.
“I think people get a little nervous when they actually hit the polls. During the forums and the debates a lot of people were saying there needed to be change. I think it really sinks in after a while that the experience the present council had really means something.”
Johnston said the incumbents have done well and voters trusted that team to continue to do well.
“I look forward to some good debate, some good collaboration. I think really Red Deer has an incredible team going forward for the next four years,” Johnston said.
Wong said it was tough with 30 candidates running for council and Red Deer could have benefited from a ward system.
“But we’re a bit behind. We’re scared I guess. We don’t like change even though we say we embrace change,” said Wong, who has been on council since 2004.