ELORA – Shawn Watters will be the new mayor of Centre Wellington after defeating opponents Neil Dunsmore and Bob Foster in a three-way race.
Watters garnered 4,105 votes, while Dunsmore received 3,417, and Foster 1,529.
The rest of council will also look decidedly different, with all ward councillor positions also won by newcomers.
In an interview at the Friendly Society in Elora on Oct. 24, where Watters and his supporters gathered to watch the results roll in, the new mayor said he was happy and that the reality hadn’t quite sunk in.
“I’m sort of calm, I guess,” he said as music blared and the crowd was jubilant in the background.
“I didn’t know how it would go. But I worked really hard. Of all the campaigns, this was the hardest I’ve worked.”
Watters thought he was well-known enough in Elora and said he focused his energy on campaigning in Fergus, Belwood, and rural areas, “because I sometimes think the rural parts of our area are not looked at as well as we could.”
The first order of business will be “to take a breath,” he said.
“The first challenge will be to get to know each other and see how we work as a council.”
Watters mentioned staff will provide an orientation session for councillors, and even though they are all new to their roles, he’s confident they’ll find their stride in short order.
“They are a smart group of people,” he said. “I have great confidence we can come together.”
In a statement released Oct. 25, Watters listed attainable housing, preserving agricultural lands and way of life, protecting our precious water, infrastructure upgrades and managed-creative growth as his priorities.
He also thanked Dunsmore and Foster for running great campaigns and said he will reach out to them on some of their ideas.
The mood at Dunsmore’s party at the GrandWay Events Centre went from optimistic early in the evening, to tense as results didn’t come in until 10pm, to deflated as he learned he was defeated.
“It was a good fight,” he told supporters. “We worked hard but clearly Centre Wellington went in another direction.
“And now we need to support Shawn Watters. He’s the mayor.”
Attempts to reach Foster before deadline were unsuccessful.
In Ward 1, Lisa MacDonald defeated Jonathon Davis in a race between two newcomers.
MacDonald received 1,655 votes, and Davis received 335.
“I’m just thrilled,” MacDonald said in a phone interview Oct. 25.
“Thrilled with the outcome and thrilled with Ward 1 voters.”
MacDonald said the all-new council will rely heavily on Watters’ experience as a former councillor and county councillor.
“But I’m excited to work with the whole team, too. Having a great team, that’s how you find solutions,” she said.
Newcomer Kimberley Jefferson unseated incumbent Kirk McElwain and handily defeated challenger Eric Nealson.
The final tallies were: Jefferson with 592 votes, McElwain with 403, and Nealson with 55.
On Oct. 25, Jefferson recalled that she lost to McElwain in 2018 by just seven votes and since then she joined committees and other organizations to improve her knowledge for this election.
“I think that helped me greatly,” she said.
“It gave me a lot of information to answer questions this time. I have a lot more knowledge.”
McElwain served as Ward 2 councillor for 16 years and this loss stings a bit for him.
“I think that what happened was the divisions of last council – people voted against that,” he said.
“I think that would have disappeared with a new mayor anyhow.
“And yes, I’m disappointed. I think I would have been an asset with an all-new council.”
McElwain, who is heavily involved with Sensational Elora and Monster Month activities, said dividing his time between that and campaigning might have hurt him as well.
“I knocked on all the doors in town, but didn’t get to rural areas and that hurts,” he said.
A crowded race for the Ward 3 seat saw six newcomers battling for the position.
Ultimately Barbara Lustgarten-Evoy, a current public school board trustee, was elected with 786 votes.
The rest of the field finished as follows:
- Neil Armstrong, 436 votes;
- Ray Trafford, 251;
- Dave Kenny, 207
- James Mantelos, 102; and
- Debora Taylor, 68
Many of the council candidates spent the evening at the Brewhouse on the Grand in Fergus and that’s where Lustgarten-Evoy was when the results came in.
She was pleased to see five of the six council seats taken by women.
“Our community is ready for a table that reflects the community,” she said.
“It was an exciting race to see so many people engaged to win.”
In Ward 4, Jennifer Adams handily defeated Brock Aldersley by 920 votes – bringing in 1,275 votes compared to 355 votes for Aldersley.
Adams was also at the Brewhouse on Oct. 24 to celebrate with her friends.
“The race was great and people at the door were wonderful,” she said, adding she has worked with Watters before and looks forward to doing so again.
“But there were great contenders and I would be happy to work with any of them.”
As expected, Bronwynne Wilton cruised to victory in Ward 5.
Her opponent Peter Viol belatedly tried to withdraw from the race and expressed a desire not to run, but his name still appeared on the ballot.
Wilton garnered 1,087 votes, and 160 people cast their ballot for Viol.
“I think it’s great to see a change and look forward to working with the new mayor and council,” Wilton said in a phone interview on Oct. 25.
“And five women! That’s new too.
“Everyone is coming with new ideas and different perspectives and backgrounds. I think we’ll do some great work together.”
In Ward 6, with 412 votes cast in his name, Denis Craddock defeated Rick Schroeder, who received 299 votes.
He played host at the Brewhouse and said he was “shocked” to win.
He also commended Schroeder for running.
“I look forward to serving our community,” he said, although trivia night at the Brewhouse will have to move to Tuesdays as council meetings are usually on Mondays.
*All the above results are unofficial.