Election sees all incumbents return to Wellesley council

Mayor Joe Nowak edges first-time challenger Bernia Wheaton by just 23 votes; two councillors also win, two acclaimed

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Joe Nowak [Veronica Reiner/The Observer]

Wellesley’s governing body will have a very familiar look, as all of the incumbents have been returned to office.

Joe Nowak held onto his seat in a very tight battle for the mayoralty, edging challenger Bernia Wheaton by just 23 votes.

In Ward 2, Herb Neher will be back after taking 150 votes to Mark Witmer’s 84. Ward 3 incumbent Peter van der Maas faced three challengers, coming out on top with 593 ballots cast in his favour. That was followed by Joyce Barker at 433, Grant Kingsbury with 338 and Philip Morris, who had dropped out earlier, at 27.

Ward 1’s Shelley Wagner and Ward 4’s Carl Smith already knew they’d be returning, having been acclaimed.

“I’m pleased obviously, it’s humbling to have that number of supporters out there,” said Nowak after the results had been announced. “I think we had a very positive campaign. I’m just very humbled.”

Nowak received 1,271 votes to Wheaton’s 1,248 when the final tally came in Tuesday night, 24 hours later than expected due to technical problems with the online voting system.

The incumbent said his first order of business is to look at the township’s mix of housing.

“We need a little bit more diverse housing stock. We need entry level; we need seniors. I think each of the communities has that same challenge,” he said, noting the issue will be part of the Region of Waterloo’s review of its official plan, an overarching planning document.

“It’s already started, so I’m looking forward to being a part of that. Hopefully, we can convince them that they should look at some of their communities and see how we can work together to address those shortfalls.”

One thing that both mayoral candidates agreed upon was the noticeable increase of community interest in the municipal election. Nowak and Wheaton said they spent plenty of time speaking to residents about township issues.

“What I feel like is people were paying attention in this election,” said Wheaton. “People were asking the questions. I feel like we ran a solid campaign. We worked hard; we had a lot of support, people asked questions. I would spend two hours a night responding to texts, Facebook messages, emails, people asking the questions that needed to be asked.”

“I did knock on an awful lot of doors,” added Nowak. “And what I heard at the doors was a very positive response to some of the work we’ve been doing in the past. They wanted to spend more time actually talking. I would easily spend 15, 20 minutes with some of the folks out there. They shared their vision, and I shared my vision, and for the most part, they were very similar.”

Taking the loss in stride, Wheaton expressed her desire to run for a political position in the future.

“I truly have enjoyed meeting people, even knocking on doors – it’s hard work,” said Wheaton with a laugh. “But I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed how receptive people have been. That was one non-regret is to savour the moment all the way through and appreciate the opportunity and support that I had along the way to do it.”

These results come a day later than initially planned due to technical issues that occurred on Monday night at around 6 p.m. The online voting service operated by Dominion Voting System began experiencing difficulties accepting votes around this time, resulting in the township extending the voting until Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The delay surprised both township staff and residents, a minor malfunction in their first-ever paperless, online election. Woolwich experienced similar difficulties, as did some 50 other municipalities.

Though the delay forced candidates to wait another day for the results, most took in it stride.

“I think the company did the right thing with the extension,” said Nowak. “I think the system worked well other than that glitch. I think we know what caused it; we just need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

For more details about election results, see the township’s website.

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