Hofer takes over as Cornwallis reeve

There’s a new reeve for the Rural Municipality of Cornwallis as Sam Hofer unseated incumbent Bill Courtice to take the chair at the head of the council table.

Hofer said he’ll now work with council, which includes three new faces, to go to work on the budget. Then, he’d like to see issues surrounding the gravel bylaw resolved.

“It’s obvious there’s some issues that need to be dealt with right away,” Hofer said Wednesday evening following his victory. “We’ll get at it right away.”

Hofer collected 518 votes to Courtice’s 429 during an election that saw voter turnout jump to about 34.5 per cent, up around 10 per cent from the last vote.

Senior election officer Reg Atkinson noted that each position was contested in the RM of Cornwallis, which likely boosted the voter turnout.

During his campaign, Hofer said ratepayers were essentially subsidizing gravel companies by maintaining roads to various gravel pits. The flow of tax dollars to pay for those roads has to stop immediately, he reaffirmed on Wednesday.

In August, Hofer told The Brandon Sun that he was running for reeve out of a concern for a lack of transparency and leadership within council. In particular, he said complaints brought to council were dealt with behind closed doors during in-camera sessions.

Following his election win, Hofer committed to restoring residents faith in council by being more transparent.

“It’s their money that we’re managing, and we need to show more respect for their funds,” Hofer said.

Four candidates each competed for two seats in Cornwallis’s two wards.

Terry Ross (419 votes) and Shane Drohan (379) took the two seats in Ward 1 over Dewald Krause (113 votes and Oneyebuchi (Buchi) Onuke (103).

In Ward 2, Bob Brown (258 votes) and Ed Maxwell (178) took seats as they defeated Vicky Wilson (Whittingham) (117 votes) and Shannon Mayo (71). Brown is the only incumbent to make a return to council as Emil Egert and Kurt Wasserberg didn’t run.

Down the highway in Carberry, another council leader was unseated.

Incumbent Mayor Stuart Olmstead faced challenges from former councillor Ray Muirhead, who had served 10 years on council before running for mayor in this election, and former longtime Beautiful Plains School Division trustee Debbie Rea.

It was Muirhead who emerged as mayor-elect. He said he wants to get to work on projects that have lingered since the beginning of last council’s tenure.

“I want to get them wrapped up,” said Muirhead, who earned 274 votes to Rea’s 178 and Olmstead’s 77 .

Health care, protective services, a new subdivision, better bylaw enforcement and a lagoon expansion are all on Muirhead’s to-do list.

Muirhead will work with four councillors elected from a field of six — William Kalinowich (406 votes), Emma Denton (315), John Anderson (296) and Michael Sudak (282).

It was also a three-way race to take the seat at head of council in the surrounding Municipality of North Cypress-Langford, where Clyde McCallum, Jimmie M. Krzyzaniak and Ray Drayson jostled to be named reeve. In the end, Drayson became the new reeve with 261 votes to McCallum’s 196 and Krzyzaniak’s 52.

Only Ward 6 was contested for North Cypress-Langford councillors, with Donald C. Hockin (28 votes) losing to Malcolm Murray (70). Otherwise, Robert G. Vankommer, Harold Tolton, J. (Grant) Jardine, Dallis Olmstead and Gerond R. Davidson were all acclaimed for positions in Wards 1 to 5.

These were a couple of election hot spots in an municipal election year that saw many candidates acclaimed.

The Sun used data available through AMM’s election website, mbvotes.ca, to survey 36 municipalities in southwest Manitoba. It showed that 132 out of 396 candidates (33.3 per cent) were acclaimed, including 18 mayors, reeves and heads of council.

In some municipalities — Minnedosa, the municipalities of Prairie View, Riverdale, the Rural Municipality of Minto-Odanah — the entire council was acclaimed.

In the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain, neither the mayor nor the councillors faced competition. The mayor and five councillors were acclaimed, but not enough candidates stepped forward, so one council spot was left vacant.

In Neepawa, located 76 kilometres northeast of Brandon, former deputy mayor Brian Hedley was acclaimed as mayor. Hedley is taking over from Blake McCutcheon, who told the Sun earlier in the fall that he would not be seeking another term as mayor.

Hedley, the general manager of the Neepawa-Gladstone Co-op, was the only person who put their name forward for mayor. No stranger to politics, he has served on town council since 2018.

In a statement made to the Sun on Wednesday afternoon, Hedley said that while people feel better when they get an opportunity to cast a vote for who they’d like to see as their mayor, he felt confident that he’ll do a good job in the role.

“As deputy mayor, I’d like to think I have a good working knowledge of what’s occurred in the last four years and can hit the ground running. I plan to do the best I can for the community and look forward to the challenge,” Hedley said.

A couple of major projects Hedley wants to get to work on are the town’s wastewater treatment plant and the reconstruction of Park Lake, which was severely damaged due to record rainfall in the summer of 2020.

In the coming months, there will also be preparation for the opening of the town’s new hospital, east of the Lions Riverbend Campground in Neepawa, near Provincial Trunk Highway 16.

While no results were available by press time for Neepawa’s town council race, Hedley said he applauded all the nine candidates, which included Dean Dietrich, Brian Elgert, Darryl Gerrard, Marijka Kostenchuk, Mary Ann Marquez-Hunstad, Jason Nadeau, Murray Parrott, Lisa Pottinger and Yvonne Sisley.

“I personally know most of them and feel any one of them are capable of doing the job. The town has excellent managers and staff for us to work alongside so I feel the community will be in good hands.”

In Minnedosa, located 52 kilometres north of Brandon, no election was held as the current mayor and council were all acclaimed. Ken Cameron is returning for another four-year term as mayor, joined by returning councillors Mark Blais, Grant Butler, Tom Dowsett, Marc Landry, Robert Marks and Frank Taylor.

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun