Winkler’s new mayor wants to reunite an inclusive community

Henry Siemens has been elected as Winkler’s next mayor, after decisively beating a controversial opponent known mostly for his anti-vaccination beliefs and for spending time earlier this year in Ottawa as part of the Freedom Convoy.

In Wednesday’s municipal election Siemens, a Winkler small business owner who has served on council for 16 years and as the city’s deputy mayor for the last 12 years, easily crushed his opponent Winkler resident Karl Krebs.

Siemens received a total of 3,358 votes on Wednesday giving him 87% of the total vote, while Krebs received 501 votes, which converts to about 12% of the total vote for mayor in Winkler.

Winkler, a southern Manitoba city of about 13,000 residents, has seen deep divides and made headlines over the last two-and-half years after several anti-vaccination and anti-health order rallies were held in and around the city.

Krebs worked to organize a number of those rallies and last year tried unsuccessfully to push Winkler city council to name Winkler a “sanctuary city,” that would be free from pandemic-related health orders and restrictions.

With the city now overwhelmingly choosing Siemens to be the next mayor, he says wants to get to work to bring the community back together.

“It’s time to move forward, and the first feeling for me was relief,” Siemens said. “I think the community of Winkler needs to come back together and these results showed that is what the citizens want to see, and they spoke very clearly.

“And the numbers also tell me that maybe we were not as divided as some of us thought we were and that this community is ready to move forward. We are ready to build and rebuild relationships and partnerships, and I am extremely happy to see that.”

Siemens takes over from former Winkler Mayor Martin Harder, who announced in February that he would not be running for reelection after serving in the role since 2006 and he said he would like to spend his first term not only bringing the community back together, but also focusing on community and economic development.

“It is time to go back to doing what Winkler does best,” Siemens said. “We are progressive, and we are a leader and a partner. We need to get back to work on some of the nuts and bolts infrastructure projects and the larger projects that a growing community needs.

“We need to get the work done that needs to be done, and make sure that the tent is big enough that everyone is welcome inside it, and that is what I intend to do.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun