The citizens of Clarke’s Beach sent a clear and overwhelming message to the incumbent members of council during Tuesday’s vote.
That message? It’s time to go.
Only one member of council — longtime mayor Betty Moore — won re-election in what many were describing as a historic vote in this growing, prosperous little Conception Bay North town.
After several years of rancor and controversy, including a national headline late last year labelling Clarke’s Beach as “Canada’s most dysfunctional municipality,” voters decided to boot out incumbents Kevin Hussey (deputy mayor) and councillors Roland Andrews, Gary Bendell, Winston Vokey and Eldon Snow.
They have been replaced with a clean slate of newcomers, two of whom are relatives of Moore.
And after years of questions about whether gender was playing a role in the way Moore was being treated by her colleagues, who were all male, the gender balance has been turned on its heels, with four of the seven council seats now held by women.
“I am ecstatic,” Moore stated after the results were released, three hours after the polls closed.
Topping the ballot was Wayne Snow, Moore’s nephew, with 464 votes, while Moore finished second (444). Also elected were Kelly Kavanagh (324), Crystal Brett (308), Danielle Delaney-Bussey (292), Norman Hillier (284) and George Janes (271).
Delaney-Bussey is Moore’s niece.
A record 25 candidates were on the ballot, far more than any other town in the region, and perhaps second only to the City of St. John’s in the province.
Clarke’s Beach is home to only 1,400 residents, so even the most detached observer could sense a wave of change was spreading over the community, which has been dogged by negative headlines and bitter infighting for many months.
The level of activity at the polling station was brisk right from the start, and it continued all day as nearly 800 citizens took the time to fill out the candidate-laden ballot.
Officials say voter turnout was 75 per cent, which likely set a new benchmark for the town.
“The people wanted change and they soundly got it,” said Wayne Snow.
He pledged that things will be better, and this new council will work together as a team.
“We’re going to make some changes to the town, hopefully for the better,” said Snow.
The next step is to choose a mayor and deputy mayor. That will be done at the first meeting of the new council.
Under the Municipalities Act, council can hold a secret ballot among councillors, though traditionally, the two posts have been offered to those with the most votes.
When asked if he wants to be mayor, Snow was non-committal.
“I need time to think about that,” he said.
Moore added, “That will be entirely up to the seven councillors.”
When asked why she survived the house-cleaning, Moore offered the following response:
“I survived because of my attitude, and I think people in the community knew I’ve work hard and I’ve had a very difficult time getting things done, but I’ve always put the town first.
“I’ve always voted on what I thought was the best interest of the town.”
As for serving on council with two relatives, Moore said it won’t be a problem.
“I’m totally delighted and really looking forward to us getting back and working hard for the town,” she said.
“I’m certainly looking ahead to four great years in the Town of Clarke’s Beach.”