Jim Elliot & John Tonin
There will be two familiar faces and four fresh ones on the newly elected Whitehorse city council.
Mellisa Murray raked in the most votes, finishing with 10.6 per cent, or 3,546 ballots.
Murray spent election night with her family, and said she’s “very excited” to get to work in the council chambers, a place she has never been before.
When it’s time to get to work, Murray said housing is a “huge issue that can’t wait any longer.”
“It’s been an issue for decades,” said Murray. “I think that needs to be looked at. Climate change is another huge one. These are kind of my priorities. I think these can be immediate changes.”
Further down the line, Murray said she wants to see what the city can do in terms of new and old infrastructure to make things “more economically friendly and lower our carbon footprint.”
What inspired Murray to run for council was a drive to create a more diverse place.
“I was interested in running because I wanted to create change in inclusivity and diversity,” said Murray. “Being a young Chinese woman represented on city council means a lot to me that people saw that in me.”
Michelle Friesen finished in second place with 9.2 per cent, or 3,080 ballots.
Michelle Friesen received 3,080 votes in becoming one of the six Whitehorse city councillors.
Friesen said she’s excited to join a diverse city council.
“I’m really proud of all the hard work that everybody put in,” said Friesen. “There were a lot of amazing campaigns that were run. I’m excited to see how we come together as a team and see what work we can get done over the next three years.”
Like her new councillor colleague Murray, Friesen said she’d like to get to work on housing and climate change.
“They’re things that we’ve been talking about for a really long time,” said Friesen. “They’re also things that came up on the doorsteps throughout the campaign.
“Those are the two major things that I’ll be wanting to focus on and there’s lots of things that can fit into those broader topics.”
Jocelyn Curteanu, now a four-term councillor, will also be returning to her seat after receiving 2,857 votes or 8.5 per cent. While said she considered stepping aside ahead of the 2021 election, she said she decided to return when it looked like there would be few other councillors seeking re-election.
“You want to leave it better than you had when you first came in. Right? And I felt that I would be kind of abandoning my post if I didn’t try again,” she said.
“So that was really important to me, to make sure that there’s some continuity with some of the things that the city has been trying to do.”
Curteanu said orientation followed by some strategic planning would be the first orders of business for the new council. She said there may be a steep learning curve for the new councilors but she sees her fellow electees as competent and qualified.
Dan Boyd will be returning for a fifth term behind the Whitehorse council table. Boyd finished in third place with 2,950 votes, or an 8.8 per cent share.
“Laura did an excellent job,” Boyd said of mayor-elect Laura Cabott, who he has sat on council with in the past.
“She was well supported, and she’s very passionate and deadly serious things that she takes on and things that she wants to advance.”
Boyd said he found some unique challenges when campaigning under the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the changes to the way the campaign was conducted, Boyd said it served as a good way for the public to air their concerns and tell the incoming council what is important to them.
He said next on the agenda is getting council together for strategic planning to distill what they heard from the public down into some next steps for the municipal government. While he said he is willing to help the first-time councillors, Boyd said it is important not to push them around but to let them bring their own values and voices to the table.
Ted Laking finished with 2,601 votes, for 7.8 per cent.
“It’s a huge honour to be given this responsibility,” he said.
When knocking on doors, Laking said he heard people want action on housing affordability, addressing property crime and action to sort out simple issues like improving snow plowing and fixing roads.
“Those are the types of issues that on day one I want to just hit the ground running and start getting these fixed,” said Laking.
Over the two-month campaign, Laking said all 17 candidates did a great job and put forth amazing ideas and is excited to get working with his new colleagues.
“Those that were elected tonight, I absolutely look forward to working with them,” said Laking. “There are some bright individuals there. There’s a mix of experience and a lot of new faces.
“I think what we are going to be able to accomplish over the next three years is going to be pretty phenomenal.”
Kirk Cameron said he believes he will be joining a mayor and council team that will be “focused on making our future happen.”
Cameron secured 2,593 votes, for 7.7 per cent.
“The Official Community Plan, we got to get that together,” said Cameron. “We’ve got to talk about the future of this town because it’s a big deal for us to figure out how we get that plan together.”
Working with a diverse group of councillors, Cameron believes they can all affect change.
“We’ve got a council and mayor that’s all about a different future for our city,” said Cameron. “I think this is great for us to make a difference moving forward.”
– With files from Stephanie Waddell
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