Henk DeVlieger garnered 1,041 votes, winning 59.7 per cent of the mayoral vote over incumbent Ray Bryant, who received 40.3 per cent of the vote at 704 cast ballots.
“People have been bugging me to run for mayor for awhile. I must have finally gave in,” said DeVlieger with a chuckle, during a Tuesday morning interview with The Times.
“I think through the whole process I got a lot of support. The people who wanted to see me run really helped me with my campaign and it’s nice to have that support. And that’s how I really want to run from here is really stay in contact with people, so I do what the people of Taber want.”
As DeVlieger hit the campaign trail there were common themes that emerged among his swell of support, as the wave of change makes the new council in 2013 have four new councillors and a new mayor sitting in council chambers.
“People like to see progress and positive change, putting ourselves a little bit more on the map again. A lot of things you can find in my platform point in that direction,” said DeVlieger.
“All those things I put in my platform are coming from the people of Taber. From me listening to them for the last year. Those are not things I just dreamed up, it was the things I hear. I am very thankful for the people who came out and voted including the ones who didn’t vote for me. I am very honoured being mayor and really hope that I can represent the people and do the best for them.”
It was a municipal race that had its drama, as far as council was concerned, as only 66 votes separated two incumbents from being ousted in Garth Bekkering and John Papp from the number five and six seats on council, according to accumulative vote count. But as the dust has settled, Randy Sparks and Rick Popadynetz were the only incumbents left standing, as four new councillors make their way to council chambers in Jack Brewin, Joe “Luigi” Strojwas, Laura Ross-Giroux and Andrew Prokop.
“I’m not saying anything bad about the previous council, but I think people were ready for a change. Maybe a fresh outlook on things with a different approach and people voted that way,” said DeVlieger. “To me that tells me people are ready to see a change.”
Being the first time he has ever run for public office, DeVlieger admitted to no butterflies as the days wound down to election day —simply at peace with a platform he believed in, in which he left it up to the people to vote to see if they believed in it too, in the final vote.
“The last week I thought it over and if I get in then it is meant to be and if I don’t get in, it’s not meant to be,” said DeVlieger. “I was at peace with it. I campaigned, but I didn’t over campaign. I had a written-down platform that was publicized everywhere and I felt I opened myself up to the people for what I am standing for and it’s up to them to decide if they like that or not.”
Reached late on election night, defeated incumbent Ray Bryant stood behind his record in serving the community in public office.
“With the campaign, I think I did everything I wanted to do, in terms of signage and flyers and ads in the paper and that sort of thing. Like I’ve said before, one’s campaign really begins the first day after the election, so I’ve had three years plus to campaign. No regrets — it’s been an honour and privilege to serve the community, and it will be something that I treasure for the rest of my life. Obviously, the community wanted a change, and that’s exactly what happened.”
After more than two decades in public office, Bryant indicated his election loss was bittersweet, but would allow him to progress in a different direction for the future.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to serve on council for 23 years. It was 14 years as a councillor, and the last nine years as mayor. It’s been an interesting journey, and something I’m glad I ventured into. Now I can close off this chapter in my life, and open another chapter. I’ve appreciated the opportunity and the respect that people have shown me while I was in office, and I appreciate that very much.”