Not long after being sworn in for a second term as mayor of Brandon, Rick Chrest used the time he had to defend the city’s image in light of a municipal election that saw a drastically lower voter turnout.
Chrest was sworn in Thursday night in the council chambers of city hall during a ceremony attended by friends, family and local dignitaries, including Brandon police Chief Wayne Balcaen, CFB Shilo commander Lt.-Col. Dave MacIntyre and Brandon University interim president Steven Robinson.
After congratulating each of the candidates for having stepped up to serve their community, as well as the unsuccessful candidates for their respectful campaigns, Chrest turned to the lingering matter of the Oct. 24 election, in which just under 17 per cent of voters cast a ballot for council and school board.
“Now I would be remiss in not making a comment about the low voter turnout in this election, as it did capture more regional and national attention than the election outcome itself,” he said.
“Indeed a 17 per cent turnout is an extremely disappointing result and an occurrence that council and staff may wish to examine going forward. However, I will vehemently contend that this number in no way whatsoever defines this community.
“I’m certain every one of us would agree that Brandon’s reputation of being an engaged, caring, active, progressive and constructive community will continue untarnished long into the future.”
Chrest continued, saying while he agreed that the result was a “less than ideal phenomenon,” he believed that it was a product of council’s strong leadership and stewardship of the community.
“It will be our collective duty over the next four years to prove that they made the right decision,” he said.
Chrest was first elected as mayor of Brandon in 2014 and was acclaimed for a second term in September ahead of the election.
Councillors Shawn Berry (Linden Lanes) and Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) were also acclaimed.
Incumbent councillors Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine), Kris Desjarlais (Rosser), Barry Cullen (Victoria), John LoRegio (Meadows-Waverly), Ron Brown (Richmond) and Glen Parker (Riverview) all won re-election.
Meanwhile, the ceremony saw two new councillors take their seats at the council table — Shaun Cameron (University) and Bruce Luebke (South Centre).
Chrest finished his speech thanking his friends and family, including his wife Karen and their three children — Dylan, Brett and Kaitlin — for their support, and said it was a tremendous honour to serve the community he was born and raised in as mayor.
He also listed a number of priorities facing the new council over the next four years, among them taxation, infrastructure, recreation facilities, the “scourge of crystal meth and other addictions,” crime and economic development.
“Needless to say, we can never fully anticipate what is around every corner for us, but I’m extremely confident that our combination of a dedicated and constructive council, alongside a professional and talented staff team, we are ready for whatever challenges come our way.”
The ceremony was led by city manager Rod Sage and included prayers by Pastor Kevin Ratzlaff of the Gate Church Community and Frank Tacan Sr.
The mayor and councillors and were sworn in by Robert Patterson, the new master of the Court of Queen’s Bench.