PENTICTON - Just what was the message Penticton voters sent to city politicians on Saturday?
The question is a valid one following incumbent mayor Andrew Jakubeit’s upset loss to opponent and former Councillor John Vassilaki by a margin of 5,144 to Jakubeit’s 2,564, a margin of 2,580 votes during Saturday’s Oct. 20 municipal election.
It was expected to be a close race, and depending on which camp you listened to, their candidate would be the one finishing on top.
But no one predicted Vassilaki’s wide margin.
Widely speculated prior to Saturday’s night’s final count, it was generally felt the six way race for mayor would conclude in a close battle between Jakubeit, Vassilaki and political newcomer and Penticton businessman Jason Cox (who finished second with 2,621 votes).
A popular scenario was the three way race would create a vote split between Vassilaki’s camp and Cox’s, leaving Jakubeit with the highest vote count.
It appears, in conclusion, the vote split occurred, but it was between Cox and Jakubeit, with Vassilaki taking the majority.
Outgoing City Councillor Helena Konanz, who did not run for re-election, having accepted the position as federal Conservative candidate for South Okanagan - West Kootenay, said the election was difficult to predict because of the large number of names on the ballot.
“I believe the vote reflected a sentiment from the electorate that at this point they’d like to go through the next four years with more politically experienced leaders at the helm compared to the 2014 election. The good news is the new council have a great staff to help them with their collective vision,” she said in an email, adding she looked forward to positive outcomes over the next four years.
“Each person elected cares as deeply about this community as the former council, and will work hard to make this an even better place to live,” she said.
City Councillor Tarik Sayeed, who declined to run for a second term due to work commitments, said it was important to reflect on a credible election that demonstrated social equality, whether we appreciate the outcome or not.
"Next week, we'll witness one of the most peaceful transfers of government, and that, to me, is Penticton," Sayeed said in an email. "Everyone elected are well respected in our community and we need to give them support to move the city forward."
If voters were looking for life and political experience in a new council, it appears they got both. Not all councillors have revealed their ages, but incoming mayor John Vassilaki, 72, has 12 years' council experience and 29 years of age on outgoing mayor Andrew Jakubeit, who is 43, with 10 years council experience. Incoming councillor Jake Kimberley, at 78 years of age, is older than anyone else on either council, but also has a wealth of local political experience on council as a two time former mayor.
Incoming councillor Katie Robinson is 62, with two past terms as councillor, while outgoing councillor Helena Konanz at 57, has been a councillor since 2011, also with two terms.
Campbell Watt, elected to both councils, is apparently the youngest councillor on the newly elected council, in his mid-40s.
In the end, Jakubeit himself was aware of some of the ways the evening could go awry, even prior to the final results being announced.
In an interview conducted just prior to the announcement of the city’s election results at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, he told INFOnews he thought he’d done all he could to present his case to the electorate, but realized the three way race, past issues like Skaha Lake Park, and an unforgiving electorate could be tough hurdles to overcome.
He said if he lost, it would be bittersweet leaving council after 10 years but he would likely focus on other things.
“I’ll still be involved in the community, on a different level,” he promised.
“People still think about elements of the Skaha Lake controversy and have animosity towards that. No matter what you do, they still focus on that. How much does that hurt or hinder, even though we’ve adopted new policies? I guess tonight we’ll find out if there’s faith in what we’ve done, or if they are interested in someone else,” Jakubeit said, adding history shows a repeat was unlikely.
“Our history here in Penticton is there has not been too many two-term mayors,” he said, adding he hoped the trend would be bucked this year.
It was not to be.
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