The District of Saanich has a new mayor-elect.
Richard Atwell squeaked out a win over incumbent and six-term Mayor Frank Leonard in tonight’s municipal election by just over 1,000 votes, according to a preliminary count. Mayoral candidate David Shebib, who ran on a platform of dissolving the current system of government, received 482 votes, about 1.7 per cent of overall votes for mayor.
“It was time for a change,” said Atwell from his campaign office at 3789 Quadra St. this evening. “Last election, (David) Cubberly brought something, but it wasn’t enough. This time, something I did resonated with everyone.”
The vibe in Atwell’s campaign office was electric from the moment the first advance voting results came in at 8:30 p.m. citing Attwell ahead 5,690 to 5,190.
Atwell has gained recognition in his advocacy as a prominent critic of the Capital Regional District’s sewage treatment project for the past few years.
He said his first order of business is to reshape council procedures and open council up to the public for non-agenda items, so people can speak their mind.
“Not just to encourage people to come to speak on agenda (items), but just to come and speak, that was part of my campaign,” Atwell said.
“Did I believe I’d get in? I really don’t know but we tried our hardest. That was harder than anything I’ve done in my life, and I used to work 45 days in a row for Apple, followed by 30 days in a row.”
One of the items Atwell was openly critical about was the question supporting a governance review on Saanich’s voting ballot, while other municipalities ran an amalgamation question.
“I took an early position, it was a silly question. Saanich didn’t even have ‘amalgamation’” mentioned in the question.”
Saanich voters overwhelmingly voted in favour of the governance review, with 88.5 per cent in favour.
The mood at Leonard’s campaign office remained tense throughout the evening after advance voting results showed Atwell had a slight advantage over Leonard. Leonard said he accepted the decision of voters “wholeheartedly,” and said he has no regrets after his 28 years in office. He was first elected to Saanich council in 1986.
(Below: Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard gives a concession speech surrounded by supporters at his campaign office on Nov. 15.)
“I’ve won 10 elections and I’m leaving the municipality in great shape,” Leonard told Saanich News. “At 60, it might be better to go to the job market than at 64. I need to go get a job next month. Payroll runs out, medical runs out, no pension in the mayor’s game. So Frank goes to the real world and this is probably a good time to do it.”
Leonard added the people of Saanich had put their confidence in another person this time. “That’s democracy and so be it.”
When asked if he had any advice for Atwell, Leonard said simply: “It’s a beautiful municipality. Don’t break it.”