Albanese appointed as new councillor

Following a ballot taken during a special town council meeting Wednesday afternoon, former councillor John Albanese was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the late Struchan Gilson.
“My goal is to work for the people of Fort Frances. They voted for me in the last election and I want to fulfill their wishes,” Albanese said Thursday morning.
“It’s unfortunate Mr. Gilson had to pass away for me to fulfill my dream to be on council. But I look forward to working with the others,” he added.
Albanese noted council is facing different issues now than it was when he ran in the November, 2003 election, and will need an orientation seminar “more than anything,” he smiled.
Albanese previously served on council from 1985-91.
“Well, obviously I’m pleased with outcome because it reflected what I thought should have happened in the first place,” Mayor Dan Onichuk said after Wednesday’s meeting.
“We just took the long way around to get it done,” he added.
“No matter who would have been appointed through this so-called process that we had today, I was prepared to work with them and try to represent, and do the best for, the residents of the Town of Fort Frances,” the mayor remarked.
“That’s why we’re all sitting at this table.”
Council determined the successor by ranking on a ballot, in the order of preference of who they’d like to see fill the vacancy, four defeated candidates from the 2003 election.
They were Albanese, who had the most number of votes among the defeated candidates, Misty Christian, former councillor Gus Lindberg, and 2003 mayoral candidate and former councillor Sharon Tibbs.
The two other people who ran in 2003, Bud Edwards and Pastor Stephen Laing, were contacted by Clerk Glenn Treftlin prior to Wednesday’s meeting but declined to be included on the ballot.
The results were calculated as follows: First-choice votes were worth four points, second choices worth three, third choices worth two points, and fourth choices worth one point.
A ballot was considered spoiled if the person filling it out did not assign a number to each of the four candidates, so each candidate got at least one point on each ballot.
After everyone had voted, the councillors then had to announce how they ranked the four candidates, as per the request of Mayor Onichuk.
The points for each candidate were tallied by CAO Mark McCaig and Clerk Treftlin. Albanese ended up with a total of 20 points, followed by Tibbs (18), Lindberg (12), and Christian (10).
Mayor Onichuk and Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft both picked Albanese as their first choice and Tibbs as their fourth. Meanwhile Couns. Roy Avis, Tannis Drysdale, Todd Hamilton, and Neil Kabel all picked Tibbs as their first choice and Albanese as their second.
Albanese will be sworn-in at the Sept. 26 regular meeting of council, but will be welcome to attend all council-related meetings prior to that date.
Council had debated fiercely during its regular meeting Monday night to determine how to fill the vacancy—whether it would be through an expensive byelection or by appointment.
And Wednesday, several councillors made it clear where they stood prior to filling out their ballots.
“I would have preferred an election because they’re the purest form of democracy,” said Coun. Wiedenhoeft. “We’ve slapped democracy in the face. We shouldn’t let our personal feelings for these candidates usurp the democracy for which we stand.”
He urged all of council to vote according to the 2003 election results.
Coun. Kabel said he, too, would have liked an election but the cost was prohibitive.
He added the reason he suggested at Monday night’s meeting that council use the ballot system was it was a compromise “to overcome a stalemate” since a majority of council would agree to neither a byelection nor a straight-forward appointment.
Coun. Kabel also suggested Tibbs be included because in the 2003 election, she initially put her name in to run for council and only entered the mayoral race after Deane Cunningham dropped out due to health issues.
He said she did this in “the best interest” of the people of Fort Frances so they would have at least two candidates running for mayor.
“I morally couldn’t exclude Sharon from the ballot,” Coun. Kabel said.
Monday night’s prompted local resident Larry Wood to appear before council on Wednesday, prior to their vote, pleading with them to appoint Albanese as the first runner-up from the 2003 election.
He said felt Coun. Kabel’s proposal to fill the vacancy on council was “foolish, biased, and irrational,” and, at the very least, Tibbs’ name should be taken off the ballot.
“By the way, at no time during the 1986 through ’88 term of office was the defeated candidate for mayor, Aage Rude, ever considered to fill the vacant positions on council,” noted Wood.

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