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Council to see mix of faces

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Fort Frances council will have some new faces, as well as some familiar ones returning, following Monday's municipal election.

Incumbent councillor Wendy Brunetta was re-elected, topping the eight candidates vying for the six council seats with 2,155 votes.

She will be joined by newcomers John McTaggart (1,986), Michael Behan (1,701), and Douglas Judson (1,655), as well as former councillors Andrew Hallikas (1,617) and Rick Wiedenhoeft (1,562).

Harold Huntley finished in seventh place (1,228) while Clinton Gray was eighth (1,085).

With fellow councillor June Caul having been elected mayor, Brunetta is the only other person carrying over from the current lineup of council here.

“I am just really pleased with the support people have given me throughout this whole campaign,” she told the Times.

“I am really looking forward to working with this new council—I think it's a strong council,” she added.

“And I also look forward to working with June and moving forward with all of the issues we're facing.”

Brunetta admitted her first four years on council had “a huge learning curve,” but she was fortunate to have some really great mentors throughout the term.

“Roy Avis' experience was just an amazing help to myself and I want to wish him all the best in his retirement,” she remarked.

The same gratitude goes out to her other fellow councillors in Ken Perry, John Albanese, Doug Kitowski, and Paul Ryan.

“I think we worked together really well as a team, and they just brought so much information and support throughout that whole four years,” Brunetta noted.

But even with the election now over, Brunetta has little time to slow down. The current council will carry on with its current responsibilities, including attending board and committee meetings, until Nov. 30.

The new council will be sworn in on Dec. 3.

Judson, meanwhile, said he was “deeply touched by the strong show of support” for his candidacy in the election.

“Voters have sent a strong signal that they're ready for younger generations to be better reflected in their local government and that they're looking for a new approach to some of our community's key challenges,” he remarked.

“And as a community in transition, we have many challenges—in economic development and the future of our mill, with the recent legalization of cannabis and rise of injection drug use, in housing and homelessness, in the need to work together with neighbouring First Nations and plan for an aging population, and in the need to make the business of council more transparent and participatory for the public,” Judson added.

Judson said he's committed to using his leadership skills as a lawyer, an advocate, and a community organizer to drive change, and looks forward to working with new mayor June Caul and the incredible team the voters have selected to fill the other seats of council.

As the youngest member of the new council, he's excited to bringing fresh perspective and inclusive, fiscally-responsible leadership to town hall.

“My sincere thanks to Harold Huntley and Clinton Gray for letting their names stand for election, and to Ken Perry for his contributions to council and the vision he shared through his platform for mayor,” Judson concluded.

“I know that each of these individuals are committed to our town's future and we appreciate their generous service to our community—through this election and the many other initiatives they are part of,” he added.

Behan, who has been editor of the Times for the past 28 years, said he was grateful and humbled with the support he received from voters.

“I am eager to get to work with the new mayor and council to help make our community an even better place to live for all,” he remarked.

As a newcomer to council, Behan also fully realizes he'll need to be ready to hit the ground running come Dec. 3.

“There's the 2019 municipal budget that will need to be started on right away, along with making a decision on whether to allow marijuana retail operations to set up shop in Fort Frances,” he noted.

How best to develop the Shevlin wood yard also will be front and centre from the get-go, he added.

Hallikas, who served on council from 2006-14 and has remained active on a half-dozen boards and committees over the past four years, said he's glad to be back at the table.

“I am really pleased with the results," he told the Times. ”I am really happy with our new mayor and look forward to working with her.

"June's proven herself to be a very progressive person with the best interests of the community at heart.

“I am also very pleased with the candidates that won for council," Hallikas added. ”I am looking forward to working with all of them.

"I think our community is in a time of transition now and they're in good hands with this particular council. . . .

“I am ready to get down to work," he stressed. "There's lots of issues that our community has to deal with and I want to be part of the solution.”

Clinton Gray noted on social media that he will run again in four years.

“Thank you to everyone who supported me in this election," he wrote. ”I'm extremely gracious for everyone that voted for me.

"I'm also proud of myself as I got to show my daughter that no matter what, you have to try for what you want.

“The people of Fort Frances will be in great hands with the newly-elected council and mayor,” Gray added.

“I will try again," he pledged. "I have four years of hard work ahead of me [and] this is just the beginning.”

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