Original Published on Oct 25, 2022 at 15:27
By Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Southwestern Ontario was full of surprising twists and close calls in the civic elections, with longtime mayors turfed in three centres near London.
In Strathroy-Caradoc, political newcomer Colin Grantham won 4,032 votes to defeat three-term Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden by 1,350 votes.
“I’m a little bit tired today, overwhelmed,” said Grantham, a national sales manager who previously worked in the newspaper industry, including for The London Free Press.
“I think the magnitude of the accomplishment is hitting me,” he said Tuesday.
Despite running against a veteran, Grantham said he was “quietly confident” in his mayoral bid, especially because he found voters had an appetite for change.
“They just want more accountability and transparency,” he said.
Vanderheyden, who wasn’t available for comment, thanked her supporters over the years in a social media post late Monday.
“It has been an honour to serve the community of Strathroy-Caradoc,” she wrote. “Wishing the new council all the best.”
The town’s three-term deputy mayor, Brad Richards, was also knocked off, losing by 330 votes to challenger Mike McGuire, whom he had defeated in 2018. Richards entered municipal politics in 1991, holding the positions of reeve and deputy reeve for Strathroy before becoming the first deputy mayor of the amalgamated Strathroy-Caradoc in 2000.
In Woodstock, Coun. Jerry Acchione pulled ahead to defeat his nearest rival, David Hilderley, by 171 votes in a six-candidate race for mayor — a win Acchione called “too close for comfort.”
The biggest shocker, however, may have been the defeat of veteran Coun. Sandra Talbot of Woodstock, who finished last in a four-candidate race for two seats on Woodstock city council and Oxford County council. Talbot has spent nearly 30 years as a city-county councillor, with stints as Woodstock’s deputy mayor and Oxford’s deputy warden.
In Ingersoll, two-term Coun. Brian Petrie scored a big upset, taking the top job from three-term Mayor Ted Comiskey.
And in nearby Tillsonburg, 2,934 votes gave Coun. Deb Gilvesy a 553-vote victory over Stephen Molnar, who has served a combined 15 years as mayor.
In Thames Centre, in Middlesex County, rookie candidate Sharron McMillan narrowly defeated Deputy Mayor Kelly Elliott for the mayoral seat by 254 votes.
“I expected it would be fairly close, and it was,” said McMillan, a Dorchester resident and retired real estate broker of 28 years.
Only one veteran is returning to Thames Centre’s five-person council.
“(Voters) are looking for a little bit of change,” McMillan said, adding they want a council that can address the key issues of housing, growth and development.
In Elgin County, voters in Central Elgin elected an entirely new council.
With 43 per cent of the votes, business owner and Port Stanley resident Andrew Sloan defeated longtime council member Dennis Crevits in a four-person race for mayor. Sloan will be joined by a new deputy mayor and five new councillors. Mayor Sally Martyn, Deputy Mayor Tom Marks and Coun. Bill Fehr, all of whom were vying for different council seats, won’t return.
Next door in St. Thomas, a close match for the final spot on the nine-person council left Tara McCaulley beating her nearest rival, Earl Taylor, by a mere five votes.
While some voters wondered if a recount might be in the cards, that would only happen automatically if there had been a tie between the two candidates, city clerk Maria Konefal indicated.
Under Ontario’s municipal election law, a voter can apply to the courts for an order to hold a recount if they have reasonable grounds to believe the election result was in doubt, Konefal added.