Eight new politicians to join councils, boards

  • Nov. 23, 2011 5:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret–Seventeen islanders won positions on their village councils, school board and regional district in Saturday’s local government elections, and will join the two mayors and three trustees already acclaimed. Eight of the seventeen winners are new to island politics, while nine have been previously elected. Most of the races were not particularly close, but in Port Clements Kazamir Falconbridge won a spot on council by a margin of eight votes over candidate Betty Stewart, and in Queen Charlotte, incumbent Greg Martin held onto his seat with 10 votes between him and candidate James Reid. Former councillor Wally Cheer will become Port’s new mayor, after easily winning the election with more than 80 percent of the votes. Mr. Cheer received 109 votes while challenger Judy Hadley received 26. Mr. Cheer said he was pleased with the results, although not surprised. “I’m glad the voters have confidence in me, it makes me feel like I have a mandate,” he said. The biggest challenge facing Port right now, he said, is attracting new jobs and new residents. The community intends to work cooperatively with companies like the Haida Nation’s Taan Forest and with the Council of the Haida Nation to achieve that goal, he said. “We have to work with Taan, with the CHN, with the land use plan,” he said. “We have to make it work for us, and promote the best interests of Port Clements.” Elected as Port’s councillors are Ian Gould, who was previously elected earlier this year, Urs Thomas, who served on council a few years ago, and newcomers Matt Gaspar and Kaz Falconbridge. In Queen Charlotte, all three councillors who were running again, Leslie Johnson, Kris Olsen and Greg Martin, were elected. Ms Johnson received 203 votes, the most of any candidate in any of the islands elections (she performed the same feat in 2008, the first year she ran). They will be joined by newcomer Ellen Cranston, perhaps the only candidate on Haida Gwaii to put up election signs, and incumbent mayor Carol Kulesha, who was acclaimed. In Masset, newcomer Jason Thompson topped the polls for councillor with 174 votes, followed by former mayor Barry Pages with 155 votes, newcomer Natanis Hageman with 122 votes, and Bret Johnston with 116. Mr. Johnston has run for council before, losing the 2008 election by just one vote. This time he won his seat convincingly, with 49 votes between him and fifth-place finisher Karen Church. Mr. Johnston said his first reaction to being elected was “scared… It’s a bit intimidating.” But he said he is looking forward to working with the other members of council, and has already been hearing from citizens with concerns. “We’ll see how the wheels of government actually work,” he said, adding that one of the biggest issues he has been hearing about is the old barracks and other former military buildings still standing in the middle of town, which have become a safety issue. “I’m concerned about those old military buildings,” he said. “Not only are they an eyesore, but they are a hazard.” Mike Racz of Lawn Hill was elected the new Area D regional district director, defeating Ian Hetman of Tow Hill Road by 197 votes to 115. Mr. Hetman has held the position previously, but was defeated in the 2008 election by Brad Setso, who didn’t run this time. Mr. Racz said he was excited about the win and looking forward to serving. “I’m going to have fun with it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to learning everything the regional district does.” Mr. Racz works in both Masset and Queen Charlotte and said spending time at both ends of the islands gives him good exposure to the issues and concerns in his large constituency, which covers all of Graham Island outside the municipalities. On Moresby Island, voters re-elected Evan Putterill as their regional district representative. Mr. Putterill received 107 votes, while challenger Doug Gould received 61. “I was thrilled with the voter turnout,” Mr. Putterill said. “168 people in a community of 300 during the winter is awesome. Once you subtract the kids, those who are away on holiday, and those who are not citizens, you get a very high voter turnout. Thanks to everyone who got out and voted.” Mr. Putterill said he was happy to get a clear mandate for his platform, and will be writing a “report card” every quarter to update the community on how he is doing on his commitments. In Skidegate, Kim Goetzinger will be the village’s new school trustee after she defeated longtime trustee Wayne Wilson by a vote of 108 to 46. In Old Massett, voters returned Warren Wesley to the trustee position. Mr. Wesley received 51 votes while candidate Cynthia Samuels received 34. Mr. Wesley and Ms Goetzinger will join three other trustees who have already been acclaimed: Sharon Matthews, Elizabeth Condrotte and Carla Lutner. The number of people voting was down in the municipalities compared to 2008. In Masset, 219 people voted, compared to 245 in the last local election. In Port, 135 people voted, down from 216. In Queen Charlotte, 281 voted, down from 327. Area D, however, saw an increase, with 312 people casting ballots compared to 288 last time around. Former Port Clements mayor Cory Delves, who moved to Quesnel recently, ran for Quesnel city council but came last in a field of 10 candidates. He did, however, receive 1,045 votes, far more than he ever received in Port and only a few hundred votes behind the winning candidates in Quesnel. Full results (preliminary): Masset Mayor Andrew Merilees (acclaimed) Council Jason Thompson 174 Barry Pages 155 Natanis Hageman 122 Bret Johnston 116 Karen Church 67 Lisa Edwards 64 Ian Edwards 32 Queen Charlotte Mayor Carol Kulesha (acclaimed) Council Leslie Johnson 203 Kris Olsen 191 Ellen Cranston 175 Greg Martin 153 James Reid 143 Kim Claggett 114 Evelyn von Almassy 37 Port Clements Mayor Wally Cheer 109 Judy Hadley 26 Council Ian Gould 109 Matt Gaspar 108 Urs Thomas 87 Kazamir Falconbridge 58 Betty Stewart 50 Area D Mike Racz 197 Ian Hetman 115 Area E Evan Putterill 107 Doug Gould 61 Old Massett trustee Warren Wesley 51 Cynthia Samuels 34 Skidegate trustee Kim Goetzinger 108 Wayne Wilson 46 North Island trustee Sharon Matthews (acclaimed) Central Island trustee Elizabeth Condrotte (acclaimed) South Island trustee Carla Lutner (acclaimed)