Albanese to take council seat on Oct. 11

After being appointed last Wednesday afternoon to fill the vacancy left by the late Coun. Struchan Gilson, John Albanese will be sworn in at the Tuesday, Oct. 11 council meeting.
And he’s looking forward to stepping into the role he previously served in from 1985-91.
“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 last Thursday morning.
Albanese noted town council is facing different issues now than it was when he ran in the 2003 election, and so will need an orientation seminar “more than anything,” he smiled.
“I want to get to know the people around the table. To let them know who I really am and how capable I am to represent the people of Fort Frances,” he remarked.
“I’ll do my best to make the right decisions for the people of Fort Frances,” Albanese pledged.
Albanese originally was to be sworn in at the Sept. 26 council meeting, but plans changed when it was learned he would be out of town on that day, Clerk Glenn Treftlin said Friday.
“Well, obviously I’m pleased with outcome because it reflected what I thought should have happened in the first place. We just took the long way around to get it done,” Mayor Dan Onichuk has said after last Wednesday’s special meeting, during which council ranked the defeated candidates from the last municipal election to decide who would be appointed to succeed Coun. Gilson.
“I know John as I know the other councillors. We’re not personal friends or anything like that, but I’ve known him for many years,” the mayor added.
“I do sit with him on the [Northwestern Health Unit] board of health. I know his capabilities through there; he is the chair of that board and he does a fine job.
“He’s been on council for a couple of terms before. He’s a seasoned councillor,” Mayor Onichuk remarked. “I think he’ll do a great job for the people of the Town of Fort Frances.”
“Having said that, no matter who would have been appointed through this so-called process that we had today [Wednesday], I was prepared to work with them and try to represent, and do the best for, the residents of the Town of Fort Frances.
“That’s why we’re all sitting at this table,” the mayor stressed.
Four defeated candidates from the 2003 election were in the running last Wednesday, including Albanese, who had the most number of votes among them, Misty Christian, former councillor Gus Lindberg, and 2003 mayoral candidate and former councillor Sharon Tibbs.
Bud Edwards and Pastor Stephen Laing, who also ran two years ago, were contacted by Treftlin prior to Wednesday’s meeting but both declined to be included on the ballot.
The results were calculated as follows: First-choice votes were worth four points, second choices three, third choices two, and fourth choices 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.
For their consideration when marking their ballots, the councillors and mayor were given a list of elected and non-elected candidates from the 2003 election, as well as a breakdown of how much of the total potential votes they garnered (out of roughly 6,700 voters).
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 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—the latter done on the grounds they felt she shouldn’t be on the ballot in the first place, Coun. Wiedenhoeft clarified in an interview last Friday.
“If the mayor resigned, I wouldn’t want any councillors’ named on the ballot to replace him. Sharon Tibbs would be the only choice,” he reasoned.
Meanwhile, Couns. Roy Avis, Tannis Drysdale, Todd Hamilton, and Neil Kabel all picked Tibbs as their first and Albanese as their second.
Mayor Onichuk and Coun. Wiedenhoeft voted Lindberg as their second choice while Couns. Hamilton and Avis voted him as their third. Couns. Drysdale and Kabel voted him their fourth.
Mayor Onichuk and Couns. Wiedenhoeft, Kabel, and Drysdale voted Christian as their third choice while Couns. Hamilton and Avis voted her their fourth.
Council had debated fiercely a week ago Monday to determine how to fill the vacancy—whether it would be through an expensive byelection or by appointment.
And last Wednesday, several councillors made it clear where they stood prior to filling out their ballots.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft urged all of council to vote according to the 2003 election results because having a new election was not an option in this case.
He argued a byelection was too costly (upwards of $20,000) and that the process was too slow (there had to be a 73-day period between when the byelection was called and election day—meaning the successful candidate only would spend about 10 months in office before the 2006 municipal election).
Coun. Kabel said he also would have liked an election but the cost was prohibitive.
He added the reason he suggested that council use the ballot system was because it was a compromise “to overcome a stalemate,” given a majority of council would agree to neither a byelection nor a straight-forward appointment.
Coun. Kabel also noted he suggested Tibbs be included because in the 2003 election, she first had put her name in to run for council. She only entered the mayoral race after Deane Cunningham dropped out due to health reasons.
He said Tibbs 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,” he remarked.
Since last Monday night, the decision to use the process council did resulted in fevered discussions in the public. It even prompted local resident Larry Wood to appear before council last Wednesday, prior to their vote, pleading with them to appoint Albanese as the first runner-up from the 2003 election.
He aid 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.
“She had the opportunity to be re-elected to council, which I believe she would been successful,” Wood said. “However, she decided to run for mayor after Deane Cunningham withdrew from the race for personal reasons.
“You either run for mayor or you run for council. Not both,” he stressed. “They are two separate paths or avenues. And you should know avenues never intersect nor cross each other.”
Wood noted he’s lived in Fort Frances since 1968 and three times since then council has been required to fill vacancies—all resulting from resignations.
In 1977, Adam Kerr resigned and former councillor Ted Gladu was appointed. In 1987, Kelsey Saunders resigned and Nick Wihnan, who was defeated in the 1985 election, was appointed.
And in 1988, Larry Cousineau stepped down to be replaced by Ron McGregor, a council candidate also defeated in 1985.
“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,” remarked Wood.