Although the aforementioned voter turn-out for recent school board and municipal elections was disturbingly low, it is encouraging that the Strait area’s elected bodies will have a new look in the coming four-year term.
Richmond County saw one of the largest turn-overs after warden Victor David and incumbent councillors Rod Samson and Gail Johnson all went down to defeat on election night. The person who defeated Johnson, a 25-year council veteran, was principal Jason MacLean, a political newcomer from a new political generation.
Although Jeremy White is the lone fresh face on Port Hawkesubury Town Council, the town does have a new mayor, in fact its first female mayor, in the form of Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, who, like White and MacLean, is also a member of that new generation.
Inverness also unseated warden Duart MacAulay, himself a long serving councillor, as well as former deputy warden Dwayne MacDonald, replacing them with new councillors John MacLennan and John Dowling. First time councillor Laurie Cranton is taking over from long-time councillor and former deputy warden Gloria LeBlanc.
The soon-to-be-former Town of Mulgrave has itself a new mayor after Ralph Hadley beat incumbent Lorne MacDonald. Not just a new mayor, a majority of Mulgrave residents have also decided that Hadley is deserving of being the community’s municipal councillor when it joins the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG).
There will be a new Antigonish Mayor, and Laurie Boucher has become the town’s second female mayor after Kay Chisholm a decade ago. Joining her is the town’s first openly gay town councillor Andrew Murray, and small business owner and political newcomer Mary Farrell, both new to town council.
Even in Antigonish County, where the voter turn-out was poor, two new councillors were elected. John Dunbar will replace outgoing councillor and long-serving representative Angus Bowie. Gary Mattie unseated incumbent Pierre Boucher and as a member of the board of directors for the Canadian Paraplegics Association of Nova Scotia and board member with East Novability Society for Persons with Disabilities, could be a breath of fresh air around the council table.
Although there were only two elections for Strait regional school board seats, there will be two new female members for this coming term. Barbara Quirk took out former board member Allan Armsworthy in Antigonish and school board rookie Chelsea Burke was acclaimed as the new board member for West Guysborough.
It appears as though this election, more than any previous, represented a passing of the torch from an older generation of leadership, to a younger demographic that is more diverse, offers new perspectives, and brings with them different life experiences.
That’s not to say there was a major shift on October 15, since some voters re-elected incumbents or returned former elected members, but there is no doubt that the face of councils and the school board has changed.
Whether that is change for the better might depend on each elected body, but it seems voters are willing to try something new.