A political scientist feels the close results in the Lethbridge mayor race on Monday suggests a divide in city voters, but the mayor-elect said he is now turning his mind to the issues ahead.
Blaine Hyggen is Lethbridge’s new mayor-elect, edging out Bridget Mearns by 508 votes.
“I think the voters of Lethbridge were not of one mind on the issues facing the city,” University of Lethbridge professor of political science Dr. Geoffrey Hale said.
Read more: Blaine Hyggen elected mayor of Lethbridge
After a close race all evening, Hyggen now plans to connect with other members of council to begin charting a course of action for the city’s next four years.
“This has got to be a team effort and there was a lot of talk over the course of the campaign that there was some division previously,” he said.
“We’re going to have a lot of varying opinions but… we’re going to have to work on our strengths and not our weaknesses.”
He will be joined on council by incumbent councillors Belinda Crowson, Ryan Parker, Mark Campbell and Jeff Carlson. Former mayor Rajko Dodic and newcomers Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, John Middleton-Hope and Nick Paladino make up the rest of council.
Hale says this new council appears to have similar priorities, like public safety, social issues and fiscal responsibility, an area he says divided the previous group.
“(We’re) more oriented towards fiscal discipline, management discipline than some of the councils in the past,” Hale said.
“The newcomers have enough experience in the city and in municipal government to play a major role rather quickly.”
Hale doesn’t see two clearly divided camps on the new council and it will be up to the mayor-elect to bring everyone together.
“I think you have a continuum of views from strongly left-of-centre to moderately right-of-centre,” Hale said.
“I don’t think you will see hard voting blocks, but an issue-by-issue negotiation, where the mayor tries to broker various coalitions on council depending on the issue.”
Ryan Wolfe, two-time candidate Bill Ginther, Jennifer Prosser and Kelti Baird finished nine through 12 respectively, just shy of a councillor spot.
Results will become official at noon on Friday.