Onichuk looking to jump right in

It’s been less than two days since he was elected mayor of Fort Frances, and he won’t be sworn in until Dec. 1, but Dan Onichuk already is taking the job to heart.
“I said I was going to take some time away and get some things done around the house, and I find myself talking on the phone at 7 this morning,” Onichuk laughed during an interview Tueseday night.
“It’s starting to sink in—I have to figure out where we’ve got to go, make a road map for myself,” he added. “I have to understand the process of the changeover prior to Dec. 1 and work from there.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he remarked. “It’s just that we have to hit the ground running, and that’s going to take the co-operation of the new council.”
Onichuk noted his first order of business will be to contact the new councillors—Rick Wiedenhoeft, Tannis Drysdale, and Todd Hamilton—and have an orientation session for them, as well as get acquainted with the re-elected incumbents (Roy Avis, Struchan Gilson, and Neil Kabel).
“When it became clear who the council would be, I looked at the positive aspects of it,” he said. “The key thing is the campaign is over. There’s no politics anymore—we have to work on team-building.
“If there’s differences between us, it doesn’t matter now. We need to work together,” he stressed.
While Onichuk has been attending council meetings in recent months, he noted he plans to meet with town clerk Glenn Treftlin at least once in the next couple of weeks to be sure he’s up-to-date on council business.
Despite being a newcomer to municipal politics, Onichuk handily defeated Sharon Tibbs, a councillor for 12 years, in Monday’s municipal election.
According to unofficial results released after midnight, Onichuk had garnered 2,308 votes (63.16 percent of the 3,654 votes cast) compared to 1,346 (36.84 percent) for Tibbs.
“I feel great,” an elated Onichuk said Monday night as he watched the numbers being posted at the Civic Centre.
“At this moment, I have to thank all the people who supported me, my friends and family,” he remarked. “Sharon had an advantage over me—name recognition.
“But people told me the most important thing was to get out there, knock on doors, and get people to know my name and my face.
“And it worked,” smiled Onichuk, who was accompanied by his daughter, Moreta.
“I have to congratulate all the people [council candidates] that were successful. But just as important were the ones that threw their hats in the ring,” he added.
“It’s a tough job, and not everyone can take the heat,” he noted. “Having gone through the whole campaign process, I admire them for running in the first place.”
Onichuk will be sworn in with the rest of the newly-elected council at the inaugural meeting Monday, Dec. 1.
Tibbs, who initially had been seeking re-election as a councillor but then announced her intention to run for mayor Sept. 24 after Coun. Deane Cunningham withdrew from the race for health reasons, could not be reached for comment prior to press time despite repeated attempts by the Times.
Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, who announced in July that he would not be seeking a fifth-straight term at the helm, noted the mayoral race wasn’t quite what he expected.
“I’m surprised there was such a wide discrepancy in the voting,” he said yesterday.
“But Dan worked very hard to get where he is. He had an excellent team,” he added. “And he’s told me he’s confident with the council he’ll be working with.
“I expect a progressive council to be leading the town over the next three years,” Mayor Witherspoon remarked.
(Fort Frances Times)