Open season on mayors in NWT

Open season on mayors in NWT
Mark Heyck with his wife Amy and sons Alex and Sam in a photo posted on his campaign website.

Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck will not have to watch his task force on homelessness take shape from the outside after all.

Heyck was one of only two incumbent mayors returned to power in municipal elections held in six Northwest Territories communities concurrently with the federal vote on Oct. 19.

He said before the election he has been working on a hyper-focused mayor’s task force on homelessness that would have a 150-day time limit for about a year, and that he would be glad to continue to be involved if he were to lose the election to challenger John Himmelman.

That was not the case as Heyck cruised to a 4,479 to 1,411 win, earning a second term as the capital city’s chief magistrate, one he intends to spend focusing on the downtown.

“The broader issue of downtown revitalization is something the current council has been working on for the last three years,” he said Tuesday morning. “The social issues we see downtown are a core component of that revitalization that needs to be addressed, but it’s just one (piece).”

Business incubators, redevelopment opportunities, incentives to encourage residential development and façade improvements to businesses are all on the table.

Joining him on council is top vote-getter Rebecca Alty along with Adrian Bell, Linda Bussey, Steve Payne, Neils Konge, Shauna Morgan, Rommel Silverio and Julian Morse. Alty, Bell, Bussey and Konge were incumbents. Silverio was the only successful “IserveU” candidate who had pledged before the election to respect the result of crowd-sourced polls of registered Yellowknife voters through a new software platform. Marie-Soleil Lacoursiere and Dane Mason fell several hundred votes short of a council seat, limiting the influence of the upstart IserveU system.

Heyck called the councillors-elect a good mix of new and old representing a healthy cross-section of the community.

“I think we have a good group of councillors who want to diversify our local economy,” Heyck said. “We’ve been working closely with NWT Tourism. By now, everyone is aware of the remarkable growth of tourism right around the NWT and in Yellowknife. I want to focus on how we can encourage the growth of our tourism infrastructure. We know we have the visitors, now do we keep them here longer?”

Heyck attributed his second mayoral win to the emphasis he put on being accessible to citizens while on council for three terms and as mayor since 2012.

New mayor, same council in Hay River

It was a different story in Hay River, where Councillor Brad Mapes ousted Mayor Andrew Cassidy with a 810 to 540 win.

Hay River’s entire town council will return for the next term with one exception, business owner and chamber of commerce vice-president Steve Anderson, who fills the spot Mapes left when he entered the mayoral race. All eight councillors were acclaimed. Cassidy told the Journal days before the election he thought having veteran councillors return for the next term would bode well for the town as it tackles big-ticket items like the new recreation centre and power distribution. A “newer” council would need more time to get up to speed, he said.

Voters in Hay River also gave the town their blessing to borrow $15 million of the estimated $24.5 million it will cost to renovate the abovementioned Don Stewart Recreation Centre in a plebiscite that was on the municipal ballot. The result of 721 for to 372 against with 38 spoiled ballots translates to a strong mandate to get the work underway.

Mapes also spoke to the Journal ahead of the vote, on Oct. 9 after the final public information session on the plebiscite.

“We need to really move forward and get this vote going,” Mapes said at the time.

Change of the guard in Smith, Simpson

In Fort Smith, where councillor Lynn Napier-Buckley ascended to take away incumbent Mayor Brad Brake’s chance at a second term.

Napier-Buckley, the program coordinator of Fort Smith Victim Services, defeated Brake, a corrections officer, in a tight race, 574 to 447.

Erika Bell, Al Dumont, Ron Holtorf, Anneliese Kikoak, Bob McArthur, Rashmi Patel, Kevin Smith and Brenda Tuckey were elected councillors.

In Fort Simpson Darlene Sibbeston ousted incumbent Mayor Sean Whelly. In Inuvik, Acting Mayor Jim McDonald, who took the reins when Floyd Roland resigned to launch his ill-fated bid for the NWT seat in the House of Commons, defeated Derek Lindsay to earn his first full term at the helm.

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