Tofino mayor Josie Osborne has earned another four years at the helm of her community.
Osborne received 792 votes, earning a decisive 85 per cent of the total votes cast and besting challengers Jarmo Venalainen, 69 votes, and Omar Soliman, 52 votes.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to serve my community for another four years,” Osborne told the Westerly News after the results came in around 8:50 p.m. Saturday night.
Having run unopposed in both a 2013 byelection and 2014 general election, Osborne said she was happy to have challengers for the first time and be part of the municipal campaign trail that wrapped up on Oct. 20’s general voting day.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to receive my first ‘real’, if you will, mandate and to have had the opportunity to participate in the campaign and the election. I’m really grateful to everybody who stepped forward to run,” she said.
She added that she valued having her ideas, policies and values questioned during the campaign.
“I feel that my challengers did exactly that,” she said. “I hope that they’ll stay involved in municipal politics and I’m looking forward to the next four years.”
She believes the community saw her as an experienced team-builder who could work with a council that was guaranteed to have at least three new members as Cathy Thicke, Greg Blanchette and Ray Thorogood did not run for re-election.
All three incumbent councillors who ran for Tofino’s six council seats were re-elected as Al Anderson, 482 votes, Dorothy Baert, 377 votes, Duncan McMaster, 418 votes, retained their seats. They will be joined by three newcomers to council: Tom Stere, 657 votes, Britt Chalmers, 608 votes, and Andrea McQuade, 583 votes.
Osborne said seeing all the incumbents who ran get re-elected shows the community is confident in the leadership it has received over the past term.
“It’s a vote of confidence,” she said. “And, to see three skilled new people sit at the table with us is the right balance, in my opinion, of new ideas, fresh perspectives, with the experience of the incumbents. I think we’re going to have a great four years…We’ve got three excellent new voices at the table.”
She said she is familiar with Stere, McQuade and Chalmers and does not believe council will skip a beat heading into their new term.
“I’m very confident in their abilities and I do not think it’s going to take us that much time to get up to speed and move forward as a team,” she said.
Tofino cast 929 votes in the 2018 municipal election, from 1,411 registered voters, which represents a significant leap in participation from 2014’s election where 519 votes were cast, from an estimated 1,493 eligible voters. Through its Facebook page, the District of Tofino suggested 929 is a record turnout for the community.
Britt Chalmers told the Westerly News she was happy to see an equal balance of new and experienced councillors voted in.
“There’s representation from a lot of different parts of the community and, I think, there’s a lot of excitement for us new ones coming on,” she said. “I’m really excited to have that balance. It’s a great team…I think we’ll work together very well.”
She added that a healthy buzz around town during the campaign led to a record turnout of voters.
“I’m really excited about how many people came out and how many people around town were educating themselves and putting the effort into it,” she said. “I also think that, with a lot of younger candidates running this year, it got a lot of the younger voters out.”
Tom Stere said he was glad to see the vision he presented to the community during his campaign resonate so well with voters.
“I’m super stoked, of course. I love my community,” he said. “It’s obviously an engaged community and that showed once again. At the voting station, I was looking around and there was a tremendous diversity in population there and that made me feel great.”
He said he was excited to see the team the town elected and that he and his two fellow first-term councillors will bring “fresh, new, positive energy,” while being guided by their more seasoned council-mates.
“We’ve got an unbelievable mayor with great experience and three incumbents that have been there a long time,” he said. “It will be obviously a pleasure to have those people guiding us through the initial processes.”
Andrea McQuade was ecstatic to earn the community’s vote and said she could not have asked for a better team to work with.
“I’m completely humbled and totally thrilled. I’m really excited to get to work,” she said adding the three newcomers to council are well-established in the community so will be able to settle into their new roles quickly.
“I definitely don’t see us losing any momentum. With the experience that’s already sitting on council as it is, I think that the guidance is there to move us quickly forward. I think it’s going to be incredible, to be honest…The three new elected officials bring a lot of enthusiasm and, perhaps, some fresh new perspectives and I think we’re going to move decisively and quickly into the future.”
Incumbent Al Anderson was equally enthusiastic about what the next four years could bring.
“The turnout for the election was great and I’m happy with the team that the community has put in,” he said. “We’ll have some new energy there and we’ll be able to keep some momentum going as well.”
He cited affordable housing as the key issue Tofino raised during the election and said it will be a clear priority during the upcoming term.
Incumbent Duncan McMaster said he believes his re-election reflects the community’s confidence in his work.
“I think it shows that people have respected what I’ve tried to do in the past two terms and hopefully we can continue in that vein and actually get some things accomplished like affordable housing, which I’m really set on,” he said adding he’s optimistic about the newly elected team. “They’ve got different backgrounds and obviously they’re younger, so that’s, hopefully going to bring some new vitality. And, I think, the incumbents bring some experience…It’s a good blend.”
Incumbent Dorothy Baert had announced that this would be her final term on council, if elected, and she told the Westerly that she is happy her last four years in local government will be served with a dynamic team.
“I’m very pleased that I am able to serve another four years and I’m thrilled that I’ll be serving it at the table with those that the community has chosen,” she said. “I think it’s going to be an incredible group of people bringing a lot of voices and understanding to tackle some of the challenges that we have.”
She added she was happy to see Josie Osborne secure her seat with a resounding 85 per cent of the vote.
“To give her a clear mandate and support for her leadership, I think is absolutely fantastic,” she said. “They affirmed her in the strongest terms possible.”
She said Osborne’s “commitment to solid good governance” and leadership style at the council table allows council to “dive deep” into issues facing the community during their meetings.
“Further to that, she has been such an amazing ambassador for our community that it’s so much easier to go out and gain support or draw on the resources of other communities because they want to engage with Tofino and be seen as supportive of our aspirations,” she said.
Baert acknowledged her vote count was the lowest of the elected councillors and said she has been thinking about how to better connect with the community.
“I have to take that in stride and understand that I clearly am not reaching to segments of the community who chose not to vote for me,” she said. “That’s a concern. I want to know more about that…When I campaigned I went door to door and I did try to talk to as many people as possible. I think, personally, I’d like to find other ways of engaging with community members.”