Woolwich welcomes two new councillors to the table

Scott McMillan in Ward 1 and Fred Redekop in Ward 2 will join Council

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Sandy Shantz and Patrick Merlihan [Faisal Ali/The Observer]

After an election beset by last-minute delays and uncertainties, the Township of Woolwich finally has an outcome for its municipal election – 24 hours later than expected.

In Ward 1 (Elmira), which has two seats on Woolwich council, incumbent Patrick Merlihan will be joined by newcomer Scott McMillan. Ward 2 will see Fred Redekop take over the position from long-time councillor Mark Bauman, who is retiring at the end of this term.

“I’m really happy,” said McMillan, shortly after the results were announced. Though a newcomer to the council, McMillan previously served as a local trustee and chair for the Waterloo Region District School Board. “You know, it’s a long campaign, and it’s a lot of work, and delaying the announcement of the results kind of just heightened the suspense. So it’s a big relief, and I’m really excited.”

McMillan claimed the largest share of votes in the township’s most populous ward, winning 1,997 of the near-5,000 ballots cast in Elmira. Incumbent  Merlihan won his second term in office with 1,665 votes. Placing third and thus forfeiting her seat at the table was incumbent Julie-Anne Herteis with 1,336 votes.

Herteis, who previously served as Woolwich councillor from 2010 to 2014, stepped into the Ward 1 seat again earlier this year after the resignation of councillor Scott Hahn.

“It’s like any other job. If they needed help for a [position] and I left on good terms, I’d always put my hat in to help them out,” said Herteis, after the results were called. Whether Herteis would consider running again in the next election she said was uncertain.

“That’s four years down the road. You never know what happens in life, right? Life happens. Life happens when you make other plans,” she said.

First elected in 2014, Merlihan is returning for a second term.

“I feel great. I’m quite pleased with the result,” he said. “It’s kind of being invigorated for the next term. I had some initiatives that I wanted to champion, seniors’ housing being one of the cornerstone ones that came up during the election. And I kind of feel validated to continue working for Ward 1 residents.”

In Ward 2, which encompasses the northern half of the township, including the communities of Floradale, Heidelberg and St. Jacobs, but excluding Elmira, Fred Redekop emerged from the vote victorious. The first-time candidate claimed 631 votes, ahead of his only opponent, Eric Schwindt, who garnered 469 votes.

Redekop, currently a resident of Elmira, previously lived in Floradale, where he also worked for many years as the pastor of Floradale Mennonite Church.

Rounding out the remaining members of Woolwich council are Mayor Sandy Shantz, and Ward 3 councillors Murray Martin and Larry Shantz, all of whom ran unopposed and were acclaimed to their positions.

With the election over, attentions are soon bound to turn to the new electronic voting system that ran into technical problems on Monday, election day. The service, provided by Dominion Voting Systems, experienced severe slowdowns just hours before polls were set to close on Monday, preventing voters from casting their ballots and forcing the election period to be extended an additional 24 hours in Woolwich and neighbouring Wellesley Township.

The malfunction was not exclusive to the area, however, but instead was reportedly experienced by 51 municipalities across the province that chose to use the Dominion system.

“Well, I was disappointed that the online elections were extended because of these issues,” said Merlihan. “I didn’t support online voting back when the township decided to go this route, specifically for these types of concerns. And I would support going back to paper ballots in future elections.”

McMillan, too, was critical of the electronic voting system, saying a review was needed.

“It’s just too bad. I mean obviously we need to have a full report from Dominion to know exactly what went on. But I think most importantly we’ve got to tip our hats to the Woolwich Township staff. This was not their doing,” he said. “It was a break-down on [Dominion’s] end, so hats off to the Township staff that worked through this the last 24 hours.

“We’ve got to find out what happened, and then make the appropriate decisions going forward after that,” he added.

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