Original Published on Aug 24, 2022 at 14:10

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A mayoral race in one rural Manitoba community is shaping up to be an interesting one, as the incumbent is facing off against one of the councillors who voted to strip her of many of her mayoral powers in 2019.

And both candidates say they believe there need to be changes to stop the dysfunction that has been plaguing St. Andrews and its council over the last four years.

Current St. Andrews Mayor Joy Sul was elected to the role in 2018 with nearly 63% of the vote in the rural community north of Winnipeg that is home to about 11,000 residents.

But Sul has faced turmoil and resistance to her leadership and in December of 2019, a majority of council voted to remove her as chair of council and as the official spokesperson for the RM.

“It meant the votes in an election in a democratic society did not count,” Sul said while speaking to the Winnipeg Sun on Wednesday. “I can’t chair meetings, I’m not the spokesperson, I am basically not the mayor other than in title.

“There is essentially no existence of a mayor in this RM.”

Sul is now running for another term as mayor of St. Andrews and will face off in the upcoming election against current first-term councillor Jon Preun who was named chair of council after Sul was removed.

Despite dealing with what she said has been a “very difficult” first term as mayor, Sul said she believes she “owes it to residents” to once again run for mayor and she said she is confident she will remain the mayor of St. Andrews after municipal elections are held on Oct. 3.

“I have strong support, and I believe and I hear from the residents that they believe that this RM can’t continue to operate the way it is operating now,” Sul said.

“All I have received is support because residents have always been my No. 1 priority. We are elected to serve in the best interest of the residents and we are their voice on council and residents don’t deserve to have their tax dollars spent on drama and dysfunction.”

Preun, a longtime St. Andrews area farmer, claimed it has been Sul who brought dysfunction to the RM over the last four years, often, he said, by attempting to slow down or halt projects in the RM.

Preun said it is for those reasons that council voted in 2019 to take those powers away.

“I assure you we didn’t take this lightly, we really looked at this hard, but at the end of the day decided it was for the betterment of the entire community,” Preun told the Sun on Wednesday.

“There was stalling, there was six- or seven-hour council meetings, and we knew it was no longer sustainable if we wanted to get anything done, and that is why the majority voted that way.”

Preun said he wants to see progress and development in St. Andrews and wants to see whoever sits on council after the October election start to “come together and work together.”

“I want to see a community that my children and grandchildren have a reason to stay in, I want to see economic development and recreation and environmental stewardship,” Preun said.

“People want to get past this nitpicking and fighting, and put that behind us, and move this municipality forward.”

Sul took the RM to court over the 2019 decision that took away some of her mayoral powers, requesting a judicial review, but a judge ruled against that request stating in his decision she had “not established by clear evidence any bad faith or fraudulent intent.”

Sul says she is now in the process of appealing that decision.

This item reprinted with permission from the Sun, Winnipeg, Manitoba