All four council incumbents garnered a decisive victory in St. Albert's municipal election, with two new faces joining the mix.
Ken MacKay brought in 7,791 votes, Sheena Hughes 7,788, Wes Brodhead 7,229, and Natalie Joly 7,067. Mike Killick and Shelley Biermanski, who were both making their first council bid, brought in 6,362 votes and 6,260 votes, respectively.
MacKay and Brodhead waited for the results at Paddy's Pub alongside Mayor Cathy Heron, who also won re-election.
Brodhead said he was "gratified, humbled, and very pleased" with the news that St. Albertans had re-elected him.
"I'm looking forward to another four years, and to meeting new people," Brodhead said. "It's certainly a different council, but we will work together and get things done."
The Regional Transit Services Commission was one aspect Brodhead said he was looking forward to working on in the new term, but also said fostering a sense of community will be his priority.
"The one thing I love about St. Albert is the community's engaged," Brodhead said. "You can even tell that politically by the fact that we had 20 people running for council. There is no acclamation."
This will be Brodhead's fourth term serving the city; he and Heron were both elected to council for the first time in 2010.
"I really appreciate what she brings to the community as mayor," Brodhead said of Heron. "She's got this leadership style that allows for collaboration."
Re-elected for a third term on council, Sheena Hughes was more sombre about the election's results.
"We have really big decisions coming before council with the Municipal Energy Corporation (MEC) and the solar farm," Hughes said. "I'm hoping some of the incumbents change their mind from where they were before to prevent the city from going down a very dangerous path. All we can do at this point is hope."
Hughes expressed gratitude for her supporters.
"Thanks to the people of St. Albert for placing their trust in me for a third term," Hughes said. "I'm going to do the best I can to represent them, look after their interests, and try to safeguard their tax dollars."
Campaigning during the pandemic
MacKay said the election felt very different from the last one due to so few in-person opportunities, but noted the result felt "very rewarding."
"It was such an honour when I was elected the first time [in 2017] because you don't know how people will react when you put yourself out there," MacKay said. "To be re-elected feels like an affirmation that what I was doing resonated with St. Albertans."
MacKay said one key aspect he will focus on in the new term is council's approach to communication.
"Some of our messaging didn't work, and I think you can see that in some of the results tonight," MacKay said. "We need to work on how we communicate with residents and get information out quickly, because I think we missed the mark at times."
Also re-elected to a second term, Natalie Joly said it's "always an honour" to be elected.
"I really enjoy engaging with people in person, and it's been a big change to move to virtual engagement," Joly said. "I'm looking forward to more in-person interactions as we get our kids vaccinated, and hopefully that's going to be happening soon."
Joly said she's excited to continuing working on the city's universal accessibility plan, a 2018 document looking at best practices to make public facilities and transportation as usable by as many people as possible.
"The plan certainly relates more to people living with a disability, but I would open it up to all types of diversity to make sure we're welcoming," Joly said.
New councillors weigh in
Mike Killick said he had been sitting on the edge of his chair waiting as the results came in.
"I wasn't nervous because I knew residents would do the right thing by voting and getting out there, and I had done everything I could in terms of campaigning," Killick said. "It was a night ... to listen to what the voters were going to say at the ballot box."
Joining council will come with a learning curve, Killick said, noting incumbents have a "head start."
"I'm looking forward to getting to know the incumbents and I'll be asking them to help me learn the ropes," Killick said. "I'm looking forward to staying true to my values, which I'm happy to see resonated with voters. The hard work was the campaign, but the important work is now serving on council and representing residents."
Shelley Biermanski, who previously ran for mayor against Nolan Crouse in 2010 and 2013, said she was "very excited" to win a council seat this time around.
"I appreciate people voting for me," Biermanski said. "The numbers are great, and so many people were helpful in this journey."
Looking to the term ahead, Biermanski said decisions surrounding St. Albert's Badger Lands solar-farm project will be a "battle."
"That's something council will have to tackle first, as well as fiscal responsibility," Biermanski said. "We'll keep working our way through the numbers."
All six councillors, in addition to Heron, will begin orientation training this week. The first official council meeting of the term will take place on Nov.1.