A clean sweep of Central Elgin Council members in the October 25, 2022 municipal election arrived Monday with seven new faces and the promise of fresh ideas and innovative directions.
Andrew Sloan was elected CE mayor, garnering 1,807 votes, or 43.4 per cent of ballots cast. Todd Noble was elected Deputy Mayor, with 1,740 votes (43.6 per cent). They will also serve as CE representatives on Elgin County Council.
Michelle Graham was elected in Ward 1, Morgaine Halpin in Ward 2, Norman Watson in Ward 3, David Conners in Ward 4, and Dave Baughman in Ward 5.
“I could feel the desire for change at the door,” Sloan said in an interview at his victory party at Barnacles Beerhouse, in Port Stanley. “I believe everyone who ran had good intentions, but the desire for change was unstoppable.
“We were running on issues,” added Sloan. “We were running on ideas for change and my opponents were offering more of the same. Now we have a great new team which I’m honored to lead.”
The 67-day campaign was the first time ever that electors have had a choice between four CE mayoral candidates. A total of 22 CE municipal candidates challenged for seven seats on Council.
Of the 12,055 eligible voters in Central Elgin, 4,199 or 34.83 per cent voted. That’s lower than the province-wide turnout of 37 per cent. In the 2018 municipal race, 4,083 of 10,717 eligible CE voters or 38.10 per cent turned out. Across Ontario, the 2018 turnout was 38 per cent.
Sloan ousted two well-known incumbent council members, as Dennis Crevits finished with 1,192 votes (28.6 per cent), and Tom Marks, with 845 (20.3 per cent). Casey Siebenmorgen also trailed in the race, with 328 votes (7.9 per cent).
Many people Sloan met campaigning door-to-door expressed frustration with high taxes and water rates, as well as fire hall costs, parking and garbage collection.
“There wasn’t any hope left that the old team could achieve the results people wanted,” he added. “I wasn’t so popular in Sparta, where people have wells for their water, but in Belmont and Port Stanley, things couldn’t get any worse.
“We’d been told there was no hope for lower taxes or water rates,” said Sloan. “We’ve been told they had done everything they could, but like the residents of Central Elgin, I didn’t believe that was true.
“The first thing I want to do is see the books,” he added. “I want to see what financial position we’re in. I want to see how much the firehall cost. Going forward, I want to see where I can find efficiencies.”
Noble came out on top in a tight race with incumbent Colleen Row, who finished with 1,665 votes (41.7 per cent). Bill Herrington also trailed in the Deputy Mayor race with 586 votes (14.7 per cent).
“I’m excited for Central Elgin,’ said Noble, who joined Sloan at the victory party. “We have a good group to go forward with. I think we’re going to have a co-operative group and that will make a difference in the next four years.
“I feel (incumbent council members) didn’t work well together as a group,” he added. “Nobody really answered questions. The community of CE needs answers. Council is a team and you have to work together for CE.”
Noble was surprised by the voter turnout. “Having 22 candidates, I would have thought there would have been more excitement, and a lot more engagement.”
Halpin accomplished what may have been the upset of the evening in Ward 2. Halpin got 321 votes (35.4 per cent), defeating incumbent Sally Martyn with 275 votes (30.4 per cent). Karen Cook finished with 260 votes (28.7 per cent) in Ward 2, ahead of Sherlock Reid with 50 votes (5.5 per cent).
She credits her victory to personally visiting 800 of the 1,200 houses in the ward. “I hit a lot of doors and when people asked a lot of questions, I assumed they would be speaking to a lot of other people about what I told them.
“There were a lot of people who were curious,” added Halpin. She said her campaign goal was to have an open dialogue with constituents and to be heard. “That openness was important to a lot of people.”
Watson was elected in Ward 3 with 331 votes (56.8 per cent). Trailing were Dan Carter with 110 votes (18.9 per cent), Bill Fehr with 110 votes (18.9 per cent), and Douglas Medlyn with 32 votes (5.5 per cent).
“I’m happy I won and glad that CE got a change,” said Watson. “You’d want changes too if you had high taxes and water rates out the wazoo.”
Watson is optimistic about the new crop of councillors. “We want to make CE the preferred community to live in in southwestern Ontario.
“The functionality of the last council was broken,” he said. “They weren’t very transparent all the time. We all have got to learn to work together again.”
Graham had 981 votes (69.7 per cent) in Ward 1, defeating Mike Derrough with 426 votes (30.3 per cent.)
“I think the message that we received as a new council … is that residents expect accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility when it comes to municipal spending,” said Graham. “I heard this message loud and clear from the majority of residents that I spoke with over the course of the last two months.
“The lesson I learned while out campaigning is that residents are concerned about quality of life as a primary focus and that collaboration with residents, other municipalities and other levels of government will bring many strategies to the table that can assist in achieving a better quality of life in our municipality.”
Conners was elected in Ward 4 with 344 votes (60.7 per cent), ahead of Harold Winkworth with 223 votes (39.3 per cent). Baughman took Ward 5 with 363 votes (58.8 per cent), defeating Rob McFarlan with 146 votes (23.7 per cent), and Bill Sporbeck with 108 votes (17.5 per cent).
The municipality’s timeline indicates the new term in office will commence on November 15, 2022, and the deadline for the newly formed council to host its first meeting is December 16, 2022.