Bill Robertson re-elected as Okotoks mayor
Election 2013: Three new faces join returning councillors
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 04:28 pm
There is no change at the top, but there are some new faces on Okotoks council.
Bill Robertson will return for a second term as mayor and a sixth term overall after defeating challenger Larry Albrecht in Monday’s municipal election by a vote of 2,652 to 1,937.
Robertson will be leading a council with a balance of experienced members and some newcomers.
Matt Rockley received the highest number of votes and will be returning for a second term on council. Incumbents joining Rockley on council include Ray Watrin, who was re-elected for a second term, and long-time councillor Ed Sands who will serve a sixth term on council. Newcomers who will be filling the remaining three positions include Tanya Thorn, Carrie Fischer and Ken Heemeryk.
Robertson said he was thankful for the opportunity to lead the community for another term, this time for four years.
“I’m very pleased, it’s an honour and a privilege to serve as the mayor of Okotoks and I’m pleased the citizens have chosen me for another four years,” he said on Monday amid a throng of supporters.
Once council gets down to work, Robertson said the top priority will be to address Okotoks’ water supply woes and commit to a long-term supply.
He said the Town still needs to analyze the two options in front of council, namely a water pipeline from Calgary or one from the Bow River outside of the city.
However, Robertson said he doesn’t want to rush into a decision.
“I believe that making a decision perhaps within a month would be a little premature, that’s my personal belief but I’m certainly willing to go with the will of council,” he said.
Thorn received the most votes of all the newcomers to council, coming in third overall with 2,358 ballots cast in her favour.
She said her message of making Okotoks a vibrant community where people can work, live and play struck a chord with residents.
“I’m hoping it’s because it’s the message I had as a candidate and people bought into the message I had,” she said.
Thorn also said finding a water solution will be her top priority. However, she said a Calgary water pipeline is not a foregone conclusion.
She said she needs time to review an August report studying three potential options for a water solution.
However, Thorn said a pipeline is likely the best solution.
“I do believe we need to be looking at long-term sustainability and a pipeline I think offers us that,” she said.
Thorn said council needs to show leadership, choose an option and then ensure Town administration looks at final details like land requirements and what level of funding to expect from the provincial government.
Water aside, Thorn said she also wants to work to attract more professional businesses to town and create more employment opportunities. She also said Okotoks needs to drop its long-running fight against the Wind Walk development. Okotoks is taking the Wind Walk issue to the Supreme Court.
“I think that battle is done, we need to move forward and start building some partnerships,” she said.
Coun. Ed Sands said water should be council’s top priority and council shouldn’t rush into a decision.
“Council should move on a water decision as fast as is possible, with good information,” he said. “We do not have good information yet.”
Sands said there are too many unanswered questions on the issue, not the least of which is the financial support from provincial government.
“The Province may tell us which solution we’re going to have and it may annoy half the council and it may please half the council,” he said.
Sands said the Town doesn’t know precisely what the provincial government will pay for or the final cost for a Calgary pipeline.
“The solution I will support is the one that makes the most financial sense and is the most functional,” he said.
Heemeryck narrowly won the sixth spot on council by 18 votes.
He said he expected he would be able to win a seat on council
He doesn’t believe all the facts are in on water and he wants to wait until the Town has the details on the options available to the Town before making a decision.
“My stance has always been I will support what’s best for the Town of Okotoks,” he said.
Mayoral challenger Larry Albrecht said the election results were disappointing, but he supports the mayor and new council as it now moves forward.
He was making his first attempt at election in Okotoks. While he was not successful in the election, he said he will remain involved in the community.
“I’m absolutely committed to the community and to volunteering and giving back,” he said. “This is one venture that wasn’t as successful as I wanted it to be, but I’ve got lots of energy and lots of commitment and I will continue to work for our community.”
While Albrecht said there are some on council he believes will push hard for a decision on the water issue, he isn’t optimistic one will be made quickly.
“There’s a history of a few people on council who haven’t wanted to make a decision, who have continued to spend tax dollars,” he said. “Unless their attitude is changed, unless their philosophy has changed about that, I certainly worry about a lack of decision making going forward.”
Once the votes were counted on Monday, voter turnout was disappointing with 4,617 ballots cast. In comparison, approximately 5,400 votes were cast in 2010, about 44 per cent of eligible voters.
The results are unofficial, but the vote total was: Matt Rockley, 2,733; Ed Sands, 2,564; Tanya Thorn, 2,358; Carrie Fischer, 2,179; Ray Watrin, 2,123; Ken Heemeryck, 1,785; Nicole Watkins, 1,767; Jared McCollum, 1,383; Lynne Pelser Karch, 1,327; Sean Tyler Foley, 1,209; Geneva Clark, 1,133; Michael Douglas Moore, 1,003; and Stacey Lock, 536.