It’s official. Nancy Cooper is Salmon Arm’s new mayor.
The city’s six council members include: Alan Harrison, Ken Jamieson, Marg Kentel, Debbie Cannon, Denise Reimer and Chad Eliason.
The voters returned incumbents Bobbi Johnson and Michel Saab to the School District #83 board.
Voter turnout at the polls was brisk, but not especially high with 5,108 ballots cast out of the estimated 12,982 eligible voters, which equates to 39.4 per cent. This is lower than the 2008 election which drew 47.8 per cent of voters but slightly higher than the 2005 municipal election which saw a 38.6 per cent voter turnout.
Cooper led in all the polls including the community centre, Gleneden, Canoe and the advance polls to become Salmon Arm’s second female mayor. She will be leading a council where, for the first time in history, women are in the majority.
It was third time’s a charm for the former councillor.
Her victory comes after two unsuccessful mayoral attempts in 2005, where she lost to Marty Bootsma by only three votes, and lost by a larger margin to him again in 2008.
“This is very exciting,” she said shortly after hearing the results at a friend’s home. “A lot of people believed in me for a long time, so I feel like this is their victory too.”
Cooper says she was pleasantly surprised at the outcome, noting she was expecting a closer race between her and opponent Kevin Flynn, who has spent the previous nine years on city council.
“I was pretty nervous, especially remembering those three votes from years past. So I really just need to thank all the people who supported me, who campaigned for me. It was their hard work that made this happen,” she said. “You hear different predictions, but I just kept campaigning, kept encouraging my supporters to get out and vote and to get their friends and family to vote. I, of all people, know how much difference the votes of a few people can make.”
Kevin Flynn’s loss in the three-way mayoralty race took him by surprise.
“I’m extremely disappointed and shocked,” he said Monday, explaining that part of the problem was he had been hearing from the public for the past two months that “everything was good, I was fine.”
He said he wishes mayor-elect Nancy Cooper well, adding that she ran a better campaign than he did. He said his supporters expected him to win, “but we’re in the business community and they (businesses) didn’t get out and vote.”
As for the rest of council, he said he’s pleased a number of incumbents were successful because they have experience.
“Having worked with Councillor Harrison, he deserves to top the polls, he does the most work…”
He’s also pleased Coun. Debbie Cannon was re-elected.
Flynn sees the new council as a “middle-of-the-road council who is safe,” explaining that “the community quite clearly said no to people who are extremely pro-business like myself, Tom Welsh and Glenn Hill,” and also said no to the environmentalists.
He said he would advise council to create an open door to business because of the challenging economic times.
“I’m extremely pro-business. I don’t think there’s anybody there, except maybe Marg, who is as pro-business as me.”
It’s important to protect the lake, Flynn emphasized, but there has to be a balance.
The most frustrating part for him of not being elected is the time and energy he spent over the last nine years on the provincial stage on behalf of Salmon Arm.
“I don’t think people appreciate what I did outside the community,” he said, adding he’s been called by members of outside boards, shocked that Salmon Arm didn’t support him.
Flynn doesn’t rule out re-entering politics, but at this point he will be focusing on his business.
Meanwhile Cooper says she is excited to work with the new council and is already scheduling meetings with city staff to get up to speed on her new role.
“I think the community chose well. We’ve got some different viewpoints which is good, and I think we will all be able to share those in a respectful manner.”