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Cowan already at work in preparation for mayor’s post

He promised to be proactive, and Woolwich’s mayor-elect hit the ground running after sweeping to victory in Monday night’s municipal election.

Todd Cowan has already been in touch with provincial officials, getting the ball rolling for meetings over two of the biggest issues in the campaign: gravel pits and a biogas facility proposed for Elmira.

“The first thing on my agenda is the biogas facility – we don’t have a lot of time,” he said Wednesday, noting the province is already evaluating the application for a plant in the north end of Elmira.

In his campaign, Cowan indicated support for the alternative-energy facility, but suggested it should be built in another location. This week, he indicated it will take some wrangling to have the province consider another site without the application by Bio-En Power Inc. losing its place in line for ministry approval.

“I’ve got started by making some preliminary phone calls as mayor-elect to the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Energy.”

While he’s been preparing for the transition, Cowan said he’ll be staying in the background until he’s sworn in at the inaugural meeting of the new council Dec. 7.

The current council still has two more meetings next month prior to handing over power to a new group. Of the five council members, only Ward 2 Coun. Mark Bauman will return for the next four-year term.

For the mayor’s seat, both incumbent Bill Strauss and former Ward 1 councillor Pat McLean appeared surprised by Cowan’s victory. All three candidates were at township hall Monday night awaiting the returns, with Cowan posting an early lead and never looking back.

Campaigning on a platform of change, Cowan ended up with 2,777 votes, outpacing McLean’s 1,784 and Strauss’ 1,483.

A third-place finish seemed especially hard for Strauss, who has been mayor for 13 years and a municipal politician for 26 years.

“I’ve had 13 years. I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished,” Strauss said shortly after the results were posted.

“I’m proud of our past record, and what we’ve done. I’ve been the longest-serving mayor. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”

Though crestfallen, he said he’ll carry on with the work that has to be done, with a pair of township council meetings in November and the final sessions of Waterloo Region council before it too launches a new term.

“I still have work to do.”

For her part, McLean felt she’d run a campaign that tapped into voters’ desire for a new direction at council’s helm.

“I heard a lot of comments about the ‘time for change,’” she said, adding she didn’t expect so many of those votes to go to Cowan.

“I was somewhat surprised at the outcome. But Mr. Cowan ran an organized and energetic campaign … and the people of Woolwich made their choice.”

While saying this year’s election would be her last, McLean remains undecided about her longstanding involvement with the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, especially given Cowan’s call for change in the organization, which is appointed by township council. As the chair, she’s got at least one more meeting slated for the end of November.

In an interview this week, Cowan said CPAC’s structure and mandate is something that will have to be discussed by the new council, though there are more pressing issues. Along with biogas and gravel pits, there’s the 2011 budget to be dealt with. The process is already underway, and the new council will have to get up to speed quickly.

As part of his platform, Cowan called for a full, department-by-department review of the budget. He also wants to see councillors given more responsibility over individual departments, noting that will mean getting right to work following the inaugural meeting.

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