Irricana Town council is back to a full five members, thanks to a byelection on Sept. 6 that saw local business owners Julie Sim and Nathaniel Fleming elected to council.
The Town of Irricana posted the unofficial results of the byelection to Facebook on Sept. 7, indicating Sim and Fleming led the way with 212 and 208 votes, respectively. Stephanie Katelnikoff rounded out the byelection with 98 votes to finish in third.
The byelection was to fill the council seats vacated by Debbie Day and Ton van Arendonk, who each resigned earlier this year.
According to the Town, 290 residents cast a ballot – a significant increase from previous elections and byelections. The Sept. 6 vote marked Irricana residents’ second time going to the polls in 2022, following a byelection in May that saw Jim Bryson elected to council.
Sim said she was pleased to see so many people come out to vote, although she acknowledged a likely reason behind the high turnout was the political drama that has cast a shadow over the municipality in recent months.
“I think people are upset and anger is a good motivator to get people out,” she said. “There is a lot of controversy going around in town and people really wanted to have their say.”
During the campaign, Sim said her main platform was to improve communication between the Town and local community groups, including the Irricana Lions Club and Irricana Ag Society.
Now that she’s been elected to council, Sim said she’s most looking forward to getting started on achieving her goals and bridging those relationships.
As the second candidate voted in, Fleming was similarly happy to be elected. He mentioned how this was the fifth time he has run for council in either a byelection or general election, and that his 208 votes showed a significant improvement from some of the support he received in previous campaigns.
“To be honest, it was more of a relief to finish this particular election,” he said. “It was a decent turnout – I think 290 people cast a ballot and only two were spoiled. It was really positive to see the support I got this time.
“I’m relieved to see it done and hopefully Irricana won’t have another election for three years.”
Fleming ran on a platform that included rewriting some of the Town’s bylaws, particularly the enforcement bylaw.
“There is some frustration because we have bylaws on the books but no one to enforce them right now,” he said. “Hopefully that’s something I can address.”
Another platform point of Fleming’s is to pursue a municipal internet plan for the Town.
“I’d love to get started on a capital cost analysis to get municipal internet in, because we have just been abandoned by the major telecoms,” he said. “I’d also love to see the conclusion of what’s going to happen with the hotel, one way or another, to get that whole thing resolved so the town can move on.”
As the only candidate of the three not voted in, Katelnikoff said she was happy for Fleming and Sim, but added she was disappointed in the results, given she had finished as runner-up in the May byelection.
“I’m glad Nathan’s perseverance has paid off and that he’s finally in,” she said.
When asked if she would run for council again in the future, Katelnikoff said she hasn’t ruled it out, but added it’s hard to tell what her personal situation would be by the time the next election comes around.
“I think it’s a little premature to know where I’ll be at in 2025, but I’m definitely not throwing the towel in, by any means,” she said.
Sim and Fleming will be sworn in at Irricana's next council meeting to join current council members Jim Bryson (mayor), Kim Schmaltz, and Lisa McAree.
“I think there are five very distinct personalities, opinions, thoughts,” Sim said of the new-look council. “I don’t know all my colleagues very well, so this is my opinion from afar, but I believe this five will be able to sit down, collaborate, and bring our thoughts and opinions together to come up with a good plan.
“It looks to me like a good team.”