One of the more acidic municipal election campaigns in recent memory took barely an hour to resolve once the polls closed Monday evening. Emerging as the popular winner was a jubilant Heather Jackson-Chapman who, by clinching the mayoral race, out-distanced what can only be referred to as the old boys club – Cliff Barwick seeking re-election and Al Riddell eager to launch a political career that never got off the ground.
The 2010 St. Thomas municipal vote can best be characterized as the “dump-Barwick-at-any-cost” campaign and it succeeded – however his fate was sealed nearly two months ago. More on that shortly.
For Heather, the early days in office will be a severe test of her mettle, beginning with the appointment of a finance chairman, normally filled by the top polling alderman, in this case Lori Baldwin-Sands, another winner, albeit a surprise to many. Lori’s strength is social services and she may choose to stay that course. If so, Heather will be under pressure from several quarters to fill one of the most important chairman positions at city hall.
Keeping what could be a raucous council focussed and the process of hiring a CAO will give a true indication of Heather’s leadership qualities. This term of council could be a return to the tire-spinning days dominated by 4-4 votes.
Developer Bob McCaig got a foot in the door, with as many as four of his candidates seated around the horseshoe in the council chamber beginning in December. Will that be enough clout to re-visit his proposed condo project near the entrance to Pinafore Park?
As for losers, look no further than the out-going mayor. It’s the end of the political line for the long-serving campaigner. However, it wasn’t the timing of the Sutherland Press building lawsuit that proved his downfall. The downward slide began when he teamed up with Ald. Tom Johnston to publicly belittle and berate Jackson-Chapman over the August boil water advisory. She stood her ground and Barwick paid dearly for that orchestrated outburst and Johnston narrowly escaped, finishing seventh in the aldermanic race. Without his close advisor, Johnston is going to have to learn to skate on his own and any hopes of a successful mayoral run in four years is remote at best.
Right behind Johnston in the final tally was Linda Stevenson, finishing as top runner-up for the second consecutive municipal vote. Surely a frustrating and bitter defeat for the former school board trustee.
Sour grapes awards must surely be handed out to television analystsBob Hammersley and Mike Vecchio from the chamber of commerce who downplayed Jackson-Chapman’s victory by referencing the fact Barwick and Riddell’s combined votes totalled higher than the eventual winner. In a three-horse race this is far from unusual.
And Vecchio should certainly know this as fact – with his strong conservative connections, must he be reminded his party’s leader is in the same position?