Incumbent city councillor Maria McFaddin will be the next mayor of Castlegar. She defeated former mayor Lawrence Chernoff by a five-vote margin, 920 to 915.
“I expected it to be close. Maybe not quite that close,” said McFaddin, who added she knew the community was “wrestling over” who would be best for the job.
“I’m excited. I’m also feeling the weightiness of the job and know it is a big responsibility, but I do look forward to where we’re going from here.”
The city says a recount Monday morning, conducted at Chernoff’s request, confirmed the original tally to be correct. Chief elections officer Nicole Brown said it took about three hours to feed the paper ballots through the electronic counting machine one-by-one.
It was the first time since the city started using the machines that a recount has been conducted. Brown said as a bonus, the machines make it very difficult for ballots to be inadvertently spoiled.
“During voting day if you have a spoiled ballot, the machines detect it and provide an error message,” she said. “This can allow me to let [the voter] know that in some way their ballot was spoiled and then we replace that ballot, so their vote isn’t lost.”
Brown said in this election, four ballots were spoiled and replaced. Six other blank ballots were also spoiled when liquid was spilled on them. No completed ballots were rejected.
The councillors will be incumbent Brian Bogle (1,478), Darcy Bell (1,233), incumbent Cheryl MacLeod (1,119), Shirley Falstead (1,112), incumbent Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff (1,097), and Sandy Bojechko (1,025).
Former councillor Florio Vassilakakis fell short in his bid to return to council with 916 votes.
McFaddin says she has spoken with each of the new councillors in addition to the ones she has already worked with, and the first order of business will be team building. After that, she says there is a long list of issues to tackle, from the housing crunch and waste management to airport reliability and economic development.
Voter turnout was 29 per cent, which was lower than both the last general election and the 2021 by-election.
McFaddin will be the second woman to serve as mayor of Castlegar, after Audrey Moore, who held the position from 1977 to 1993.
At 40, McFaddin is also Castlegar’s youngest mayor since Robert Maddocks, who was sworn in at age 39 in 1966.
She is completing her first term as a councillor. Chernoff previously served as mayor from 2005 to 2018, when he was defeated by Bruno Tassone. Tassone subsequently resigned and was replaced by Kirk Duff in a by-election, in which Chernoff and Vassilakakis also ran. However, Duff decided not to seek re-election for health reasons.
Chernoff says he was “surprised and disappointed” with the results: surprised because it was so close, and disappointed because the turnout was low. But he felt that he did all he could in his campaign. “We just couldn’t do any more.”
Chernoff says his career in local government is over: “This is my last kick at the can for politics for sure.”
McFaddin thanked all of the candidates who ran, “especially Lawrence. He loves this community. He is deeply passionate about it and clearly people still love him. So I hope I can honour the voters’ decision and do a good job.”
The final election results are expected to be certified on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
On Monday evening, the city is planning an event where all of Castlegar’s living mayors will be honored: Moore, Tassone, Duff, Chernoff, and Mike O’Connor.