Woolwich council will have a new look next term, drawing somewhat on previous incarnations.
Sandy Shantz, a councillor from 2006-2010, handily won election as the township’s new mayor, taking two-thirds of the 6,680 votes cast. Her tally of 4,431 votes (66.3 per cent) Monday night outstripped Doug Hergott’s 887 (13.3 per cent) and current Ward 3 councillor Bonnie Bryant’s 851 (12.7 per cent). The incumbent, Todd Cowan, trailed the pack with 511 votes (7.7 per cent).
In Ward 1, the six-way race for two seats saw something of a youth movement, with 27-year-old newcomer Scott Hahn capturing the most votes with 1,313. Fellow neophyte Patrick Merlihan, 41, was the choice of 1,300 voters.
Running for the first time, Dan Holt garnered 1,036 votes, while Sebastian Siebel-Achenbach took 917. Incumbent Allan Poffenroth finished fourth with 968 of the ballots cast, while former councillor Ruby Weber had 840.
Ward 3 saw four candidates vying for two seats. First-timer Larry Shantz took 1,166 votes and former multi-term councillor Murray Martin had 958 to earn a return to council. Conestogo resident Lisa MacDonald was the choice of 871 voters, while West Montrose’s Lynne Hare got 658 votes.
Ward 2’s Mark Bauman was returned by acclamation.
Voter turnout across the township was 37.4 per cent as 6,722 residents cast a ballot from among a total of 17,978 who were eligible. That’s up slightly from 36 per cent in 2010, but much higher than the 27 per cent in the election before that (2006).
With the new lineup set – the councillors will be sworn-in in December – the transition is already underway. Cowan met with Shantz Tuesday to discuss handing over the baton.
“I think she’ll do yeoman’s work,” said the departing mayor of his replacement.
Cowan said he’s looking to tie up a few loose ends as his term winds down over the next month, and would like to see the completion of projects such as the skate park in Elmira.
For her part, Shantz said she expects the imminent closure of the waste transfer station in Elmira and traffic concerns, both common issues in the election campaign, to be top of the agenda when the new iteration of council gets down to business.
In making the transition from her experience as a ward councillor – she represented Ward 1 for one term, 2006-2010 – to the mayor’s seat, she sees the challenge coming from those duties outside of Woolwich council. For instance, as mayor she’ll serve as the township’s representative on Region of Waterloo council.
“The learning curve will be the regional issues,” she said.
That said, Shantz noted she’s “really excited” about the composition of the next council, which includes three newcomers, each involved with politics for the first time.
“You make the best decisions when you’ve got a diverse group.”
Both Ward 1 councillors fall into that novice category.
Hahn said Wednesday the victory still hasn’t sunk in, as he’s been very busy with work since wrapping up his campaign.
He said he had no idea what to expect while waiting for the results on Monday night.
“There were days that I was sure I was going to come in first. And there were days I was sure I was going to finish last. It was a bit of a rollercoaster,” he said of the campaign period.
Once officially in place, he said his priority will be to push for what he campaigned on: “safety issues in town.”
He expects to spend some time getting up to speed on council protocol and other topics to be covered in upcoming orientation sessions, but has no specific agenda off the bat.
“I don’t have any expectations. I’ll just go in with an open mind,” said Hahn.
Merlihan, the other Ward 1 newcomer, said he’ll be concentrating on getting up to speed as quickly as possible.
“My first priority is educating myself on the inner workings and operational aspects of the township. That learning process has already begun,” he said. “The transfer station is set to close in five months so work on a viable solution is of immediate concern to the community.”
The addition of another seat in Ward 3 and incumbent Bonnie Bryant’s decision to run for mayor paved the way for a pair of victories on Monday.
“It’s pretty humbling,” said Larry Shantz of seeing his name at the top of the list when the counting was done.
The Bloomingdale resident said he had received positive feedback out on the campaign trail.
“I had a very good response when I was going door to door.”
Now, he’ll be going through a learning curve at council in order to serve the residents of his ward, he added.
“As I said in my campaign, I want to learn and listen and then respond.”
The inaugural meeting of the new council is set for December 9. It will be a case of déjà vu for Murray Martin, a long-serving councillor who returns after a four-year interlude.
“I think it’s a great configuration,” he said of the makeup of the new council. “I’m really excited to work with this group.”
With councillors likely to be jumping right into the 2015 budget deliberations, looking for savings will be a top priority.
“That’s one of the first things that we’ll be tackling,” he said of the budget process and a review of spending. “I think we can find some savings if there’s a will to do that.”