Close race in Port highlights 2014 election

  • Nov. 21, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Hundreds of islanders voted in the local election Saturday, voting in a new mayor, eight new councillors, a regional district director and a school trustee.The closest race was in Port Clements, where Ian Gould was elected mayor by a margin of three votes. Mr. Gould, who has been on council for the past four years, received 70 votes, while candidate Dennis Reindl received a very close 67. A third candidate, Judy Hadley, received 15 votes.Mr. Gould said he had been reluctant to run, but now that he has been elected he is looking forward to working with the new council, finding out what their priorities are, and listening to community members. The mayor’s job is very much one of building consensus, he said, adding that it will be a definite challenge to take the place of former mayor Wally Cheer.Six people ran for positions on Port council, with four elected: incumbent Matt Gaspar, and newcomers Doug Daugert, Christine Cunningham and Charleen O’Brien Anderson. They will officially take on their new positions Dec. 1.Voter turnout in Port was a bit less than 50 percent, with 152 people voting and 326 on the voters’ list. More voted this year than in 2011, when 135 people voted in the local election.The highest voter turnout was on Moresby Island, where residents had the opportunity to vote for regional district director, Gwaii Trust director, school trustee, management committee members and a referendum on the community hall.The regional district estimated the Moresby Island voter turnout at 62 percent, with 147 people casting a ballot. Residents elected a new regional district director, with Bill Beldessi receiving 100 votes to incumbent Evan Putterill’s 47. Mr. Beldessi has held the position previously, serving two terms as regional district director several years ago.”I’m really excited about it,” he told the Observer on election night. “I am really, really looking forward to it.”Mr. Beldessi said he decided to run after he was approached by some Sandspit residents over the summer, including a few who had previously disagreed with him politically. They asked him to put his name forward, and he decided to give a try.Sandspit resident Warren Foster, who helped create the Gwaii Trust back in the early 1990s, was easily elected as the community’s Gwaii Trust director, a position he has held before. On Central Graham Island, incumbent Gwaii Trust director Berry Wijdeven held onto his position for another two years after receiving 99 votes to Chris Bellamy’s 86.Moresby Island residents had the opportunity to vote for members of the local management committee, which advises the regional district director, and is the closest thing Sandspit has to a municipal council. The top five candidates were Behn Cochrane, Stanely Hovde, Heron Wier, Gail Henry and Bill Quaas; under a new process these five will be appointed to the committee by the regional district.Sandspit voters also cast ballots for the South Area school trustee, in an election shared with Queen Charlotte and Miller Creek residents. That race was won by Queen Charlotte resident Denise Husband, who received 138 votes over Charlotte resident Christine Martynuik, who has held the trustee position in previous years and received 115 votes. Ms. Husband told the Observer that as a newcomer to the school board, she is looking forward to learning more about the district and what needs to get done. A teacher at the independent Living and Learning School in Queen Charlotte, Ms. Husband has worked previously in early childhood education and as a special education assistant, and received her teaching degree after 20 years of part-time studies and distance education, which gives her a good insight to some of the challenges associated with education on Haida Gwaii. In Masset, where mayor Andrew Merilees has already been acclaimed, residents had a choice of five candidates running for the four councillor positions. Newcomer Tony Tyler topped the polls with 142 votes – the most votes received by any candidate on Haida Gwaii. He will be joined at the council table by the three incumbent councillors who ran: Barry Pages, Bret Johnston and Jason Thompson. Mr. Tyler said he was called out to work at the hospital on election night and didn’t know he had won until he finished. His wife heard the news on CBC and called him just as he was heading home. “I’m pretty excited, this is something I’ve wanted to do,” he said. “It’s going to be a bit of a learning curveÂ… I feel humbled by the amount of votes I got, and I’m looking forward to getting to work.” Mr. Tyler said his oldest son, age 8, is on the student council at school, which made it a bit easier to explain his new position on Masset council. “The first thing my son said was, so are you guys going to have Mustache Day and Backwards Shirt Day too?” Mr. Tyler said with a laugh. Voter turnout in Masset was in the area of 25 percent, with 165 people turning out to the polls and an estimated 667 eligible to vote. Lower turnouts are not unusual when the mayor has been acclaimed, but Masset had 219 voters in 2011, when the mayor was also acclaimed, and 245 in 2008. In addition to Mr. Merilees, several other positions were acclaimed this year: Queen Charlotte mayor Greg Martin and councillors Ellen Cranston, Sabrina Frazier, Richard Decembrini, and Jo-Anne MacMullin; Old Massett trustee Reg Davidson, North Area trustee Harmony Williams, Central Area trustee Elizabeth Condrotte and Skidegate trustee Kim Goetzinger; and Area D regional district director Mike Racz.

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