Change blew through Monday night’s municipal election like an autumn wind, as there will be a slew of new faces on council, and a new mayor for Chatham-Kent.
Darrin Canniff stampeded to victory, garnering more than 56 per cent of the votes cast this time around.
Alysson Storey placed second with nearly 27 per cent of the votes, while incumbent Randy Hope, who served as mayor of Chatham-Kent for a dozen years, tumbled to third with less than 14 per cent of the votes.
Canniff, who sat on council representing Chatham last term, said there was one word to describe how he was feeling election night, and it was “euphoric.”
“This is one of the best nights of my life right now,” said Canniff.
Speaking on his campaign, Canniff said he owed the result to his team.
“No one person could do this. It was a team effort – everyone stepped up and this is the result.”
Canniff also thanked the other five mayoral candidates that ran and put themselves through the arduous campaign process the last six months.
“I wanted to thank Alysson: she ran a great campaign and I wanted to thank Mayor Hope for the 12 years of service he put into our community.”
Hope, fighting emotion, addressed his supporters before all the votes were tallied, admitting defeat.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege, what can I say? I’ve served the community for 12 years,” he said. “I’m proud of my accomplishments but respect the people’s choice,” he said.
“I have taken the hardest economic times and turned them around,” Hope added. “Being the longest serving mayor of Chatham-Kent is an honour.”
He said the new council is rife with fresh faces. Only seven councillors return to their chairs around the table, while Canniff shifts seats and Marjorie Crew, a former councillor, is back on board after an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2014.
“The new council has its work cut out for them,” he said.
For a rundown on who was elected and the division of votes, click here.
With the municipal election over, Canniff said the real work has just begun.
“There are so many things to get started. We need to prioritize them but we need to get people working together,” he said. “First and foremost, we need to get a team going – we need business, administration, these great new councillors that are coming in. We need to all get together, work together and we can take this municipality to the next level.”
When asked about what his first order of business will be, Canniff said there will be lots of jobs to do, but no one thing stands out that must get done first.
“There’s going to be a lot of parallel work going on. Yes, there are going to be some things that can be achieved sooner rather than later, but together we are going to achieve an awful lot.“
Hope said it’s too early to think what he will do next. But he admitted he may have already seen the first bright light at the end of the political tunnel.
“Now you guys are going to have to put up with me more,” he joked with his grandchildren.
As a newcomer to municipal politics, Storey said she is pleased with how the campaign went and the number of voters she was able to meet and with which she discussed issues of concern.
She admitted that coming into election night, she really had no idea how it was going to go, up against Hope with 12 years of experience and Canniff with a term on council.
“I came in versus two incumbents with really high recognition on council and I knew it was an uphill battle, but I am so proud of the campaign we ran. I would not change a thing,” Storey said. “We worked hard and we reached every corner of the community and we heard people’s voices and that will not change.”
Storey congratulated Canniff on the win, and said his team ran a great campaign, and thanked Hope for his 12 years of service to the municipality.
“I wish him all the best. I will be here to support him as mayor and do whatever I can to make sure that he has a great term as mayor,” Storey added of Canniff. “He had me working hard. It was a hard-fought campaign and I really appreciated the opportunity to run. I thank all the citizens of Chatham-Kent who voted for me tonight, who voted for change, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next four years hold.”
Storey said running a campaign is hard work and she congratulated all the candidates who put their name out there and worked hard to listen to the voters.
“I knew I had a tough battle and I think I worked hard every step of the way. I’m very pleased with our result. It’s been an incredible experience and I don’t have any regrets,” Storey added. “I’m sorry it’s not my name up there but I’m thrilled for Darrin and I wish him all the best.”
Hope said he found it a challenge to campaign while serving in the full-time capacity as mayor.
“I was still working today. I had a meeting with potential investors,” he said, adding the meeting lasted about four hours. “And then we had the gas leak. We had to evaluate the level of response.”
Union Gas and local emergency crews responded to an afternoon gas leak on Park Avenue in Chatham. Homes and businesses were temporarily evacuated, and the road was closed for a time.
Hope said the turnout this time around was encouraging, as it rose to 45.44 per cent, compared to 42.1 per cent in 2014. Overall, 34,722 people voted this year compared to 32,783 four years ago.
“It makes me proud that more people participated in the election process,” he said.