Diane Therrien became the second woman elected as Peterborough’s mayor in a stunning victory over incumbent Daryl Bennett Monday night.
Sylvia Sutherland was the first woman elected as mayor in 1986, while Aileen Holt was appointed the first female mayor of the city, replacing mayor Stan Mcbride Jr. in 1962 after he took on the role of Sheriff.
It was a landslide victory for Therrien, who previously served as town ward councillor, receiving 19,254 votes compared to the 8,659 cast for Bennett who had served two terms as mayor.
The election didn’t come without any unexpected drama, as the polls had to be extended by an hour due to issues with online voting, but once the numbers rolled in, the margin of victory was surprising for both mayoral campaigns.
“We had a sense that we were going to do well, but the margin was unexpected,” said Therrien.
The 32-year-old came out of the gates hard and began campaigning early, filing her nomination papers for mayor on May 3rd, and then spent nearly three months knocking on doors while Bennett delayed, making his intention clear that he would run in late July — just days before the nomination period closed.
As for her new job at city hall, Therrien says she’ll begin working right now.
“I look forward to meeting with staff and getting a handle on the files that are on-going,” she said.
Mayor Bennett reached out by email this morning to offer congratulations said Therrien and said Bennett will help her work through the transition period, saying “he’s been really helpful with that.”
Bennett addressed his supporters after Monday night’s loss and said he was proud of his accomplishments and acknowledged the voters’ desire for change.
“The people have spoken and the people have the right to change,” said the 70-year-old businessman who will shift his focus back to his business and family. “That is what democracy is all about.”
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Political analyst and Trent professor David Tough said the margin of victory was a signal of a change in the political mood here in Peterborough, tracing the shift back to the narrow victory Bennett secured after beating Maryam Monsef by more than 1,300 votes back in the 2014 municipal election. Monsef then became the Peterborough-Kawartha Liberal MP.
“That should have been more of a wake-up call to Bennett and some of the people around Bennett that things were changing and that they couldn’t continue to run the city the way they had run it,” said Tough.
“You got the sense that over the last four years that there was a kind of fortress mentality around city hall,” he said. “Bennett and some of the councillors were refusing to change the culture around city hall and they really paid the price.”
The new council will officially be sworn in at city hall in early December.