By Lyonel Doherty
Martin Johansen came out of nowhere on Saturday to be Oliver’s newest mayor.
That’s because there was a desire for change, he said.
Johansen garnered 879 votes, compared to 719 for incumbent Ron Hovanes.
“I was cautiously optimistic I would be successful. Talking to the community as I went door to door, I was definitely hearing there was an appetite for change,” Johansen said on Monday.
Unlike most of the other candidates, Johansen did not attend the Oliver Community Centre where the votes were counted Saturday night.
“This was a long campaign and I chose to spend the evening with family and close friends waiting for the results.”
Read more: New mayor voted in for Oliver
A very stoic Hovanes left the building soon after the numbers were announced. On Monday he had an important meeting scheduled in Ottawa to drum up federal funding for the canal repair project at Gallagher Lake. He could not be reached for comment before he left.
Johansen was asked what he thought contributed to his election win.
“I think it was a combination of my qualifications and work experience, and a desire for change in the people sitting at the council table.”
He also believes the water councillor controversy hurt Hovanes’ chances, in addition to him not committing to another four-year term when asked at the all-candidates meeting.
“What I found surprising is the lack of discussion about the successes he had during his time as mayor,” Johansen said. “I would have thought there would have been more conversation about what ‘I’ve accomplished as mayor and what unfinished business I want to complete.’”
Without a doubt, it was people’s desire for change that caused the upset, according to Johansen.
But re-elected councillor Petra Veintimilla was devastated by the mayoral results and became very emotional when talking about Hovanes.
“Ron is an amazing mayor and was a great leader and teacher; I learned a lot from him in my first term.”
Veintimilla, who garnered the most votes (1,217), said she really worked hard in this election because she genuinely cares about the community.
“I want to focus on making decisions in the best interest of the community.”
Newly elected councillor Aimee Grice said she knocked on doors and received a lot of positive feedback during her campaign. She said she’s really easy to talk to and listens to people.
“I’m really excited to be able to continue the work that I’ve been doing in the community,” Grice said, noting she wants to make some exciting changes for Oliver.
Grice said crime prevention and affordable housing are two key issues she wants to focus on.
Re-elected councillor Larry Schwartzenberger (913 votes) said he’s glad the election is over.
He thought Grice and candidate Dermott Hutton worked really hard on their campaigns.
Admittedly, he was a little surprised by the outcome in the mayoral race.
“I thought he (Hovanes) was a very good mayor; he’s done some great things for this town . . . but the electorate is always right.”
Schwartzenberger said Johansen is not a newcomer.
“He’s had many years of experience in municipal management (in Kelowna), so I think he knows the workings of a municipal government.”
Incumbent councillor Maureen Doerr finished unsuccessfully with 778 votes, compared to Hutton’s 748. Doerr could not be reached for comment on Monday.
In the water councillor election, incumbent Rick Machial garnered the second most votes with 251, compared to newcomer Parminder Sidhu at 256. Finishing third and fourth respectively were David Machial with 204 votes and Andre Miller with 145.
New Area C director Rick Knodel said he was elated by the results, finishing with 629 votes, compared to challenger Randy Toor’s 373.
“It’s anxious going into elections. I’m actually going to sleep tonight,” he said on Saturday.
When asked what contributed to his win, Knodel said he’s up front with people and does not shy away from expressing his opinion.
He said crime control is a key issue that he wants to address as the new director.
Johansen said his immediate plans are to connect with councillors and start asking a lot of questions about a variety of topics.
He noted that public safety is a big issue and he plans to establish a coordinated enforcement committee comprised of stakeholders in the community. The mandate of the committee will be to identify enforcement strategies based on information and feedback from stakeholders, with recommendations being presented to council for consideration.
“Getting priority action items identified quickly is important to have costing accurately identified for the upcoming 2019 budget process.”
Johansen said another priority is to survey the community and get feedback on topics such as quality of life, quality of Town services, personal safety, and value for taxes paid.
Election officer Diane Vaykovich said election day in Oliver was very busy, with lineups out the door.
Chief Financial Officer Devon Wannop said the voter turnout in Oliver was 56.5 per cent.