Witherspoon makes it a three-peat

Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon will return to the helm of council for a third term after beating out challenger Allan Bedard by a two-to-one margin at the polls Monday.
When the last of the ballots were counted, Witherspoon had pulled in 2,211 votes to Bedard’s 1,015 (all results are unofficial).
Joining him on council are Coun. Deane Cunningham (2,530 votes), Dave Bourgeault(2,481), Coun. Sharon Tibbs (2,293), Roy Avis (2,190)–the four led the way from the first poll–Struchan Gilson (1,608) and Coun. Bill Martin (1,439), who beat out Coun. Neil Kabel by 116 votes for the sixth seat.
Coun. Kabel garnered 1,323 votes, Gus Lindberg,1,158; Julian Morelli, 855; Cécile Lavigne, 613; Tom Piotrowski, 580; and Sybil Mowe, 475.
“I knew it was going to be a fight on the bottom,” Mayor Witherspoon admitted yesterday.
“The first four I don’t think were in question,” agreed Bourgeault. “And after that was when it turned into a horse race.”
And race it was as Gilson and Couns Martin and Kabel–along with former councillor Gus Lindberg–looked as though they were playing musical chairs with for the two remaining seats.
Just after the half-way point, the polls started to change. Gilson pulled ahead, leaving the Couns. Martin and Kabel to battle it out for the final spot. And while the other candidates turned in before the final polls were tallied just before 4 a.m., Coun. Martin admitted he watched it to the end.
“It was really tight there for quite some time. Emotionally, I’m kind of surprised,” Gilson said yesterday, explaining it was “humbling” to have some 1,600 people put their trust in him.
“What I hope to do is honour that trust,” he said.
For Coun. Cunningham, who pulled in the most votes, the results were a vote of confidence.
“I think that the present council has taken a lot of criticism. I’ve taken a lot of personal slams,” he explained, hoping the in-coming council will able to put the past behind, including the municipal bus issue.
Meanwhile, all agree the number one priority is the “download” of services slated to start Jan. 1, and the 1998 budget. Mayor Witherspoon admitted the three newcomers have a lot of work ahead of them.
“It’s going to be very difficult for them to understand, as it was for me,” he explained, noting when he was elected to council five terms ago he felt like “a fish out of water.”
But with the “downloading,” he felt the new councillors would be more like “whales on the beach.”
“It takes a little while to get your feet on the ground,” echoed Coun. Martin.
“I think they’re keen and they understand some of the difficulties we’re facing,” Coun. Tibbs noted.
But first, she wanted the new council to build up its communication.
“We need trust and communication among ourselves so we can work as a team,” she added, especially with the transfer of responsibility for services.
Avis could not be reached for comment by press time.
Meanwhile, the two Public Utilities Commission seats went to the incumbents, Doug McCaig (2,163) and Larry Cousineau (2,134) with challenger Dean Quinn garnering 1,351 votes.