Avis easily elected as town’s next mayor

In a decisive victory, Coun. Roy Avis beat incumbent Dan Onichuk 2,325 votes to 1,140 in Monday’s municipal election to become the next mayor of Fort Frances.
“I was very happy that the electorate put their faith in me for the next four years,” Avis said shortly after the election results were revealed Monday night at the Civic Centre.
“I’m looking forward to working for them. As I said in my campaign, give me the challenge and I’ll make sure I fulfill the obligations,” he added.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the mandate they’ve given me tonight will be fulfilled.”
Avis also said he’s looking forward to working with the mix of new and experienced councillors elected by the voters of Fort Frances.
“As I said in my campaign, we’ve got to build a team. Whether it was the old council or the new council, we’ve got to work together and build a team that’s favourable to everybody concerned,” he stressed.
“I think it will be great to work with them.”
Onichuk, who stopped by the Civic Centre shortly after 8 p.m. to see the results come in, said he was “disappointed with the result.”
“Obviously, the message never got through,” he remarked.
“I congratulate Mr. Avis on his win,” Onichuk continued. “I’ve enjoyed the last three years. It’s come with a lot of sacrifice, but I still have all my hair and it’s not gray yet.
“I came back home here with family to retire, and I might be around for a long time.
“We’ve got a new mix of council,” he noted. “I think there’s some positive in there and, admittedly, some negative, too.
“I thank the people who voted for me and supported me all these years, and I obviously wish the town the best going into the future.
“I don’t plan on going anywhere. I’ll be around. And I’m sure you’ll hear from me now and then.”
Onichuk said he was proud of his three years serving the electorate and gives credit to anyone who does the same.
“Those councillors who were successful, and those who were not successful, I respect every one of them just for putting their name forward,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out there who think they run the town and have never stood for election and sort of do it through the back door.
“Anyone who puts their name out front and takes the criticism is respectable. We had a tough three years and had a huge mess to clean up and we did that.
“Obviously, we took a lot of lumps doing that. [But] anyone who puts their name forward for office, you have to give them credit.”
When asked if his name may appear on the municipal ballot in another four years, Onichuk replied: “Never say never. That’s my rule.”
Joining Avis on council will be Sharon Tibbs (1,956), Tannis Drysdale (1,934), G. Paul Ryan (1,866), John Albanese (1,846), Rick Wiedenhoeft (1,742), and Andrew Hallikas (1,718).
The other council candidates finished as follows: Ken Perry (1,593), Todd Hamilton (1,552), Allan T. Bedard (1,389), Nick Wihnan (1,355), and Neil Kabel (1,285).
“I was kind of humbled,” Tibbs said yesterday. “I was humbled that the community felt that I deserved that kind of support.
“Now I’ll go and try and do the best job I can for them.”
Having sat on council before, Tibbs will be joining a whole different team, with others who either served over the past three years or are completely new to office.
The only exception is mayor-elect Avis, whom she served with when he was a councillor.
“Change is good, and I’m sure we can build a co-operative effort and move the community forward,” Tibbs noted.
After having just served her first term on council, Drysdale said yesterday she was honoured to be re-elected.
“I’m grateful to the people of Fort Frances,” she said. “It’s been my pleasure to serve them the last three years, and I’ll do my very, very best to do a good job for the next four years.”
Drysdale added she was looking forward to working with some new faces.
“New people bring a new set of talents and skills, and it would be nice to learn about them and collectively become a stronger council as a result,” she remarked.
Drysdale said she’s very confident in Avis’ ability as the new leader of Fort Frances.
“When you sit on council with someone for three years, you really get to know the character of a person,” she noted. “When you’re under fire and you’re making difficult decisions, you get to know the character of an individual.
“I’ve come to hold Roy in the highest esteem, and I believe that he will be a brilliant mayor for Fort Frances.”
Drysdale also noted she’ll miss at least one person who didn’t get re-elected Monday.
“Todd [Hamilton] and I joined council at the same time, and went through the ropes together. He was a very dedicated councillor—bright, articulate, and I’ll miss his presence and his guidance,” she said.
“I know Todd, and I know he’ll continue to commit to this community and continue to be involved in other ways.”
Albanese, who was appointed to council last fall after Coun. Struchan Gilson passed away, said he was very pleased to see the electorate wanted him to remain in that position for the next four years.
“I was ecstatic last night when I saw the results,” he said yesterday morning. “And now that I’m elected, I intend to keep my campaign promise to listen to, and be the voice of, the people of Fort Frances.
“I’ll be there to listen to all their concerns and bring them back to council. I want to make sure their concerns are looked after,” he pledged. “To all those people that voted for me, I will not disappoint them.”
Albanese also congratulated the new councillors on being elected, and credited those who weren’t elected for putting their names forward.
“And to the new mayor, congratulations. I am looking forward to working with Mayor Avis,” he added.
Albanese said he also felt the councillors he’ll be sitting with represent a positive mix of attributes.
“Sharon has good knowledge. She’s only been away three years and has been in touch with what’s going with town issues.
“Paul brings good experience and Andy, with his labour relations background, is going to be a big plus for council,” he remarked.
“And then you’ve got the ‘old guys’—myself, Tannis, and Rick—listening and supporting the decisions to be made.”
“I was happy that I was re-elected,” said Wiedenhoeft. “I’m looking forward to the next four years. I think it’s going to be a good council.
“I was disappointed to see Todd and Neil not make it, but I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles,” he added.
“I think we’re going to have a good group of people to work with. I’m looking forward to accomplishing some things over the next four years.”
Neither Ryan nor Hallikas could not be reached for comment prior to press time.
The new council will be sworn in at its inaugural meeting on Monday, Dec. 4.
A total of 3,515 ballots were cast in the Fort Frances election. Given there was a total of 6,303 eligible voters, that translated into a 55.77 percent turnout
An estimated 196 ballots were spoiled, comprising 5.576 percent of the total ballots received.
While the number of rejected ballots initially was higher due to the fact some voters did not include a signed declaration form with their returned ballot, many of those same voters made efforts to correct that mistake in the final week leading up to election day.
Of the ballots cast for mayor, two showed votes for both candidates while 48 showed votes for neither one.
Of the ballots cast for the council candidates, 66 showed votes for more than six candidates while 2,788 had fewer than six candidates chosen.