OLDS — One town council candidate is not sure if she’ll run again while another says she definitely will.
Lucinda Watkins finished seventh among the nine candidates running for councillor during the Oct. 18 municipal election with 1,191 votes. Janelle Adams placed ninth with 910 votes.
Watkins last ran in 2010 and finished seventh at that time too.
She says she’ll have to think about whether she’ll try again in four years. Right now though, she’s happy with the crew that’s been elected.
A big issue for Watkins was the previous council’s decision to turn Olds Fibre Ltd., which owned O-NET, the community-run internet, TV and phone service, into a municipally-owned corporation as a step toward dealing with $18 million worth of debt accrued to support it.
“I think that was a really big one. I think the kind of takeover of O-NET was just a tragic loss and I think that the new council has some hard decisions with that coming up,” Watkins said during an interview.
Re-elected councillors Heather Ryan and Wanda Blatlz, along with Mary Anne Overwater, who was not re-elected, have defended council’s decision on O-NET.
Overwater predicts incoming councillors will agree with that decision once they learn all the details about the company and its financial situation.
Watkins isn’t so sure about that.
"I’m not convinced of that. I think some bad decisions were made around O-NET by council and the previous mayor,” Watkins said.
She’s optimistic about the new council.
“I think that it’s a really good team that’s in there now. I ran because I wanted to see some change and I think that’s what’s going to happen. So I still feel like I won because there’s going to be some great change happening,” she said.
Watkins noted that Judy Dahl, who served as mayor for 13 years before bowing out in 2017, defeated incumbent mayor Michael Muzychka this year.
“I think there needed to be a change in leadership. I have full faith that Judy’s going to do just an excellent job,” she said.
Watkins was asked if she plans to run for a seat on council again in four years.
“I guess time will tell. I was upset with how things were going so I ran because there needed to be change, so we’ll see what four years brings,” she said.
Adams was pleased with how she did, given the fact she didn’t decide to run until just a couple of days before the nomination deadline.
“I’m super proud of myself,” she said.
Adams described the experience of campaigning as “challenging, interesting. (It) allowed for some personal growth, definitely. Getting out and talking to the public and business owners and just being an ear, not always doing the talking, listening to what other people have to say.”
Adams said O-NET was a big issue for the voters she spoke with as well.
But there were others. They included a perceived lack of transparency by the town and council, whether Olds has enough family doctors, and concerns about utilities.
She said another big issue was COVID-19 restrictions limiting access to town facilities for some residents.
Adams was aware that those mandates were imposed by the provincial government, but said some voters weren’t OK with that.
“People know where it’s coming from. They want their municipal government to fight for them, right? Because they’re the ones who are most local to us – and they were disappointed in that,” she said.
Asked if she plans to run for a council seat again, Adams said “absolutely, absolutely.”
She said a big reason she ran was to be a voice for “a certain demographic” (she’s almost 40 years old) who she says has not been interested in voting until now.
"When I was talking to people they were like, ‘I’ve never voted municipally before, I’ve never been involved, I’ve never really cared.’”
Adams believes her campaign spurred them to vote this time.
She noted that 2,362 people came out to vote during the election, out of a pool of 7,270 eligible voters.
That was “the largest voter turnout the town has ever had,” according to returning officer Marcie McKinnon.