June Caul will be the new mayor of Fort Frances following her landslide victory in the 2018 municipal election.
Caul, who is wrapping up her first term as a town councillor, soundly defeated fellow councillor Ken Perry by a margin of 1,808-881.
“I'm grateful to have my family here with me tonight,” Caul told the Times shortly after the results were announced Monday night at the Civic Centre.
"It means a lot to have them by my side.
“I worked hard at this campaign and I am glad the hard work paid off. I'm feeling very proud right now," she added, also sending out a "big thank you” to all of her supporters.
Caul noted she and the new council won't be sworn in until Dec. 3, but two of the first things she wants to do is touch base with Resolute Forest Products and Couchiching First Nation Chief Brian Perrault and start off on a “positive note.”
“I want to accomplish a few things that the town really deserves to have accomplished, both in town and with our neighbours,” she remarked.
Caul said she knows roads and other infrastructure are important, but she also wants to look at the “soft services" and make sure "our residents are happy living here in Fort Frances and have the things that make people want to live here.”
“They deserve to be heard on what they'd like to have,” she stressed.
The future for the town “is very exciting” and Caul is looking forward to working with the new councillors with their fresh ideas.
She also is stoked to start the planning process for the former Shevlin wood yard with the community's input, noting it holds opportunities for generating new tax revenue and for community use.
“The Rainy Lake Square was a big deal when I got on council but what's coming in the future is way bigger,” Caul enthused.
“And the issues with the Point are important to me," she added. ”I just want to see that put to rest in friendship, sharing whatever we can share in.
“I'm looking forward to the challenge of the new role, for sure.”
Perry, meanwhile, admitted he was surprised at Monday night's outcome.
During his campaign, Perry said he took great care to outline the issues facing the town and stressed to the electorate that council has “a big job ahead” of it in the next four years—and that he was the right person to lead the way.
“June's got some experience, which is better than no experience, but she'll have a different agenda than I have,” noted Perry, who first was elected to council in a 2008 byelection before being acclaimed in 2010 and then re-elected in 2014.
“As long as the town can get through, that's all I care about,” he added.
Perry noted the new lineup of councillors seems to be heading in “a new direction.”
“If we need to do that, that's fine," he remarked. ”But there's a lot of history that has to be taken care of yet.
“The mill, First Nations at the Point, there's a lot of work to do," Perry reiterated. ”I just hope they're up to it.
“I know Wendy's up to it and John McTaggart's up to it—I have a lot of faith in them and some of the new guys coming on,” he added.
“They're going to do okay.”
Perry hopes municipal taxes stay down as they have under the recent council, but regrets that issues such as railway taxation might go no further without his advocacy.
“Railway taxation was just in its infancy and I think it'll die if people don't really trump it up,” he warned.
“It's an income that's there and should have been looked at 100 years ago and nobody did,” he noted, referring to his efforts to get the province to increase property tax rates on mainline railway rights-of-way so towns could reap significantly more railway taxes.
“I went at it alone—I hope somebody picks it up,” added Perry, noting he's spoken with NOMA president Wendy Landry and she has asked him for help on that file.
“I said, 'Well, I'm here. But how effective I'll be without being on council or being the mayor is a different story,'” he reasoned.
Perry said the town has other areas where it could get more tax revenue, as well, but he only was starting to pursue those.
“It's just such a disappointment that it can't go forward,” he lamented.
Looking ahead, Perry said he's still on the clinic board and has been asked to put his name forward for the Economic Development Advisory Committee, but he's not sure yet how involved he will be.
“I'm going to take a deep breath but I'm still around,” he concluded.