Mayoral surprise for incumbent

There will be a race for the mayor’s chair in Red Deer.

Mayoral candidate Hilary Penko meets incumbent candidate Morris Flewwelling outside council chambers Monday afternoon.

Mayoral candidate Hilary Penko meets incumbent candidate Morris Flewwelling outside council chambers Monday afternoon.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling has an unexpected challenger.

Hilary Penko, 35, said she was waiting for one of the city’s councillors to run for mayor. When no one stepped forward, she decided someone had to do it.

“In a city of 90,000, I think it’s kind of sad nobody’s standing up to challenge our mayor. He’s the top elected official in our city and I think he should be elected,” said Penko, who did not announce her candidacy until Monday after she filed her nomination papers at City Hall.

“It’s just really important to me that we have a democratic process.”

Penko has lived in Red Deer for four years and has never run for office before.

“This is very difficult. It is very difficult to beat an incumbent and Mayor Flewwelling is well-liked and respected. I understand that. But now people have a choice and that means a whole lot to me,” said Penko, who works in the circulation department of Red Deer Public Library.

If elected, Penko said she would work towards making more city budget information available so taxpayers can see how Red Deer spends money.

“If (citizens) want to know where the money goes, it’s very, very hard to track down. I would like our taxes to be a bit more transparent.”

More snow clearing on city streets is also important, she said.

“I really want my roads plowed. Last year, you needed a four-wheel drive to drive on my city street.”

Mayor Flewwelling, 69, is seeking his third term as mayor. He said he is looking forward to meeting his opponent.

“I’m used to having an opponent so it is quite natural. I welcome the opportunity to have some debate,” Flewwelling said.

“I think whenever you have a race it will generate more interest. But I think you have to have strong issues. I’m not sure that those strong issues are out there. We may be disappointed with our voter turnout.”

Council has been hard-working and sensible in the way it has handled city finances, he said.

“I would challenge anybody to try to identify where this council has wasted money. You may not always agree with the expenditure in principle, but in terms of value for money, we’re very much looking after the public interest.”

Among the issues he wants to pursue as mayor is continued work on the Greater Downtown Action Plan, the start of development on the downtown Riverlands and maintaining a good relationship with Red Deer County.

And he would really enjoy being mayor when Red Deer celebrates its centennial in 2013.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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