Palmer Rapids – A relative political newcomer, although no stranger to municipal government, Valerie Jahn received a resounding endorsement from the ratepayers in Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan (BLR) as the new mayor.
“It feels amazing,” she said on Tuesday morning. “I’m the first female mayor for the municipality.”
Not only has BLR not had a woman as mayor before, but neither had the pre-amalgamation municipalities. This is not the first time Mrs. Jahn has been a trailblazer.
“I was the first female clerk-treasurer in BLR, so I set two records,” she said.
With extensive experience in the municipal sector working in various roles, she was appointed to council earlier this year to fill a vacancy created with the departure of two councillors following turbulent Conflict of Interest charges and legal proceedings. With a few months in as councillor, she decided to run for mayor. She is filling the void left by Sheldon Keller who decided to step down from the mayor role and run for council instead. He was successful in being elected as a councillor.
For her first time running for mayor, Mayor Jahn beat both her fellow mayoral candidates by a solid margin. She received 570 votes, with challengers Rick Clements receiving 333 and Andrea Budarick 144. Joining her on council representing Ward 1 are Iris Kaufeldt (incumbent), with 310 votes and Kevin Quade with 245 votes. Nicole Alessandro received 85 votes, Gerald Resmer, Jr. 141 votes and John Rutledge (incumbent) 187 votes. In Ward 2, outgoing mayor Sheldon Keller led the polls with 319 votes and Wayne Banks (incumbent) was also elected with 232 votes. John Behnke had 167 votes, Melody Ann Budarick had 136 votes and Stefan Woyslaw had 82.
The new mayor said she was pleased with the new council, noting there are three returning council members and one new councillor, and she knows all of them.
Although this was not her first time running for council, she has not ventured into this side of the political forum for some time. Her life has been spent working in various municipalities in the county, including in BLR, where she recently served after her retirement from Renfrew. In all, she has worked 35 years in the municipal sector. This extensive background will enhance her ability to be an effective mayor in the township and get things done, she believes.
In speaking with township residents during the campaign, she said many people told her they wanted someone with experience as mayor.
“A lot of them know me and know my record,” she said. “I go by the book and am anxious to see progress.”
She said there will be many things for the new council to tackle, but an early priority will be getting recreation programming back up.
“We don’t have a recreation committee and we need to get that going,” she said.
There is an arena and there can be lots of activities for township residents, she noted.
“But you need volunteers,” Mayor Jahn said.
Other issues the new council will deal with will include working with the county on the new zoning by-law. Some of the by-laws in the municipality have been updated more recently, but more work needs to be done, she said.
“We need to get our Human Resources done,” the mayor said.
The inaugural meeting of council is on November 16 and following this she will also have an inaugural meeting at Renfrew County council. Mayor Jahn said she looks forward to serving her municipality.
Participating in the election has been a positive experience and she is very pleased to be the new mayor for the municipality she has called home all her life.
“It is a very humbling process,” she said. “The voters have made their decision and we have quite a mixture of residents. They have spoken.”
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader