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Former reporter claims Kwanlin Dun chief's seat

Doris Bill is Kwanlin Dun's new chief. Bill won Wednesday's election with 152 votes, a narrow 13-vote margin over runner-up Jennifer Edzerza, who claimed 139.

Doris Bill is Kwanlin Dun’s new chief.

Bill won Wednesday’s election with 152 votes, a narrow 13-vote margin over runner-up Jennifer Edzerza, who claimed 139.

“I knew it was going to be a tough race, and that Jessica would be my closest rival,” Bill said yesterday after her win was announced.

“In the last election, Jessica ran for a councillor position and won the most votes in that race, so I knew she’d be tough,” Bill said.

Bill comes to the role after more than two decades as a reporter for CBC North in Whitehorse. She retired last April and spent some of the intervening time working as a communications consultant for Kwanlin Dun.

The campaign was a hard one for Bill, made harder by a last-minute complication on voting day when a NorthwesTel technical problem knocked out cellular service for part of Wednesday.

“I’ve covered enough elections to know that you never take anything for granted. When I woke up and our phones weren’t working, we couldn’t talk to each other. I had to run and find a landline, so we were really scrambling,” Bill said.

“We worked hard to get the votes out that we did. There were a lot of people telling me it’s going to be a landslide, but I never thought it would be,” Bill said.

Raymond Sydney finished third with 97 votes and Wayne Jim claimed the remaining 60 ballots.

In all, 448 Kwanlin Dun citizens cast ballots in the election, for a voter turnout of 54 per cent, a slight increase over 2011’s polls.

In the race to fill the council seats, Jessie Dawson claimed the most votes, with 214. Charlene Charlie was only one vote behind her and Alicia Vance finished third with 190. All three held on to their seats from 2011.

Newcomers round out the last three council seats: Howard MacIntosh, Sean Smith and Dennis Calbery.

“I’m really excited about this new council,” Bill said. “I know all of them personally, and they are good, solid people.”

During the campaign, Bill said she knocked on every single door in the McIntyre Village and met with as many KDFN citizens around Whitehorse as she could.

Some of the recurring messages she heard were concerns over inadequate housing, wishes for home ownership and worries about community safety.

“What do we do with dangerous offenders coming back to our community? How do we address that?” Bill said.

These issues will take centre stage for Bill and her new council once they finish the lengthy orientation process required for new chiefs and councillors.

Bill takes over from a government with a strong financial footing. Outgoing chief Rick O’Brien leaves behind a roughly $3 million surplus that Bill said she wants to put to work, starting with looking at the possibility of new infrastructure for the community.

“We’ve outgrown our administration building, and we could use a new elders facility. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do all of that in one three-year term, but we can at least start laying the groundwork.”

That isn’t the only area Bill wants to look at expanding, either.

“Capacity development is a big one. Our economic development branch is doing some great work, but they could really use some more resources, another body or two,” she said.

Kwanlin Dun is the largest landowner in the city of Whitehorse. There was concern in some corners that former chief O’Brien didn’t do enough to maintain ties with the city and with the Yukon government, but Bill said that’s not something she’s worried about.

“I know that O’Brien did meet with city officials from time to time. I can’t say how often, but I’ve spoken to the folks at the city, and they are keen to sit down and talk,” Bill said.

Contact Jesse Winter at