Exciting election season in Renfrew County with interesting and heated races in many municipalities

·8 min read

Eganville -- It’s going to be a doozy of an election season in Renfrew County with many mayors and councillors being challenged for their positions, several not running again and an unprecedented interest in some municipalities with up to five people running for mayor.

Our own Bonnechere Valley may very well have a new person at the head of the council table with four people running for mayor, including long-time incumbent Mayor Jennifer Murphy. She is being challenged by former mayor, and former reeve of Eganville, Zig Mintha, as well as former councillor, Jackie Agnew and newcomer to municipal politics, Leanne Panke. All members of council – Merv Buckwald, Brent Patrick, Tim Schison and Jack Roesner – are seeking re-election and they are being challenged as well by six other candidates, so ratepayers will have their choice of who is sitting around the council table. As well, this is the first election in which BV has eliminated the ward system. What this shows about the political climate in BV is there is a lot of interest in what is happening on council.

Another fascinating race will be in Renfrew where there will be a new mayor and there is a tremendous amount of interest there with five candidates to choose from. Mayor Don Eady is not running again and former mayor Sandi Heins, who served from 1998-2010 and is a current councillor, is running as are fellow current councillors Tom Sidney and Mike Coulas. They are also being challenged by Kathryn Windle and Callum Scott who is well-known for calling for the removal of the Ontario Provincial Police and the return to a town police force. What makes Renfrew’s election even more interesting is no incumbent councillor is seeking re-election as a councillor. Only Reeve Peter Emon – who was acclaimed – will bring experience to the council table if a newbie is elected as mayor. There are eight people running for five council seats, including former fire chief Guy Longtin whose dismissal based on his age was very controversial in the town.

Another race to watch will be in North Algona Wilberforce, where it looks like it might be a repeat challenge from the 2018 election with many of the same players who made headlines and created much discussion around the dinner table. All members of council are running again, and Mayor James Brose is being challenged by former mayor Deborah Farr, who headed a one-term council which was stagnated by controversy and dysfunction, while council chambers were packed with onlookers and gawkers, and the Leader had headline after headline about the happenings at NAW. Former councillor Kevin Clarke – who asked for several recounts in the last election after winning and then losing to Melvin Berndt depending on how the votes were counted – is once again running for council. Will the current makeup of NAW council change or stay the same? Voters will decide in two months.

Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan’s Sheldon Keller is stepping down as mayor and running for council. Current Councillor Valerie Jahn, who was also the former acting clerk, is running for mayor and being challenged by Rick Clements and former councillor, who was then ousted, Andrea Budarick. She was ousted by a judge’s order following an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner and a protracted court case. The costs of the investigations and proceedings against her and another councillor toped $300,000, which is a lot of money for a small municipality. With four councillors, the other three incumbents are running and being challenged by seven other candidates. It appears things are interesting in one of the smallest municipalities in the county and we know these people are not doing it for the money, because their remuneration package is one of the smallest by far.

In nearby Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, some long-time councillors are not running for council again. Debbie Peplinskie, Stanley Pecoskie and John Jeffrey are not running after serving their community for many years. However, Mayor Janice Tiedje, who has the distinction of being the longest serving mayor in Renfrew County, is running again, being challenged by David Mayville, who also challenged her in 2018. In the ward system in KHR there are elections in each ward with between three and four candidates. Three incumbent members of council are running. They are Ted Browne, Carl Kuehl and Brian Pecoskie

Many municipalities will see a new head of council since their current mayors are not running again. This includes Madawaska Valley, where Mayor Kim Love is not running after two terms. Running to replace her are incumbent councillor Mark Willmer and Roger Prince. There are also 10 people running for four seats on council, including three incumbents and one former councillor.

Whitewater Region will have a new mayor as Mike Moore has opted not to run again and incumbent Councillor Neil Nicholson is seeking the position, being challenged by Donna Burns of the Ontario Landowners Association, who is also the current president and spokesperson of the Renfrew County Landowner’s Association and a known strong opponent of official plans, following the publication of her paper Official Plans. A Blueprint to Shut Down Rural Ontario. Current Reeve Cathy Regier will be the new deputy mayor, a new position. There are 10 people running for council, including the former mayor, several incumbents, Joe Kowalski of Whitewater rafting and tourism expertise and our own freelance writer Connie Tabbert who brings a strong background in local news reporting to the table.

Greater Madawaska Mayor Brian Hunt is stepping down after one term and incumbent Councillor Lucie Perrier is seeking the position, as are three other challengers. There is the potential to have a rookie council as no incumbent councillors are seeking re-election and there will be elections in both Ward 1 and Ward 3, with Taylor Popkie acclaimed in Ward 2.

When it comes to longest serving mayors, Petawawa’s Bob Sweet held that distinction and also served many terms as warden of Renfrew County, however, in November he will finish his last council meetings as he is not running again. There are two people running for mayor in Petawawa, including the incumbent Deputy Mayor Gary Serviss. With six council seats, there are 11 people running, including four incumbents.

Mayors who are seeking re-election include Michael Donohue of Admaston/Bromley who has stated this will be his last term. He is being challenged by Jack Kelly, who also ran against him in a previous election. Whoever is the mayor, they will have a council of mostly newbies with only incumbent councillor Kevin LeGris seeking re-election. There are six people running for the four seats on council.

Arnprior will see a race for mayor showcasing different viewpoints following a highly publicized controversy among the current mayor and a member of council over the topic of racism. Incumbent Mayor Walter Stack, known to be a very straight talker, is challenged by two candidates including incumbent councillor Lisa McGee who has had a very well-publicized conflict with the mayor over his comments on racism in the community. The issue brought the Valley town into national headlines and ended with both apologizing for breaking the Code of Conduct and a lot of discussion on what racism is. County Councillor Dan Lynch is also being challenged by one candidate and with five seats on council, there are three incumbents running in the field of 12 candidates. A lot of interest in one of the fastest growing communities in the Valley.

McNab/Braeside Mayor Tom Peckett is seeking re-election and is being challenged by incumbent Councillor Oliver Jacob as well as Mark Mackenzie. There is also a race for deputy mayor with incumbent Brian Armsden being challenged and there will be a race for the three council seats with eight people running.

The very smallest municipality in the county is Head, Clara and Maria and there Mayor Debbi Grills is seeking re-election. She is being challenged by former mayor Robert Reid and there are six people running for the four seats on council, including three incumbents and former mayor Jim Gibson.

In Pembroke there will be a new mayor in the form of current Deputy Mayor Ron Gervais, who was acclaimed. With six seats on council, four incumbents are running as well as 11 other people for a busy race with 15 candidates.

Deep River Mayor Suzanne D’Eon is acclaimed, although Reeve Glenn Doncaster is being challenged. There are five positions on council and four incumbents are running again, as well as two other challengers.

In Horton, incumbent Mayor Dave Bennett is acclaimed and there is a race for the four seats on council with three incumbents running, as well as former mayor Robert Kingsbury among the candidate pool of six.

However, all is peaceful in Laurentian Hills where current Mayor Jed Reinwald did not seek re-election. Instead, incumbent councillor Anne Giardini will head the table and be joined by three incumbents – Bruce Boucher, Brenda Blimkie and John Hoyle, as well as newcomer Gary McAnulty.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader