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New mayor and town councillors prepare for upcoming term

"[We need] to really [set] a solid foundation as a team so that we can serve this community to the best of our ability."
Mayor Tanya Thorn reads the oath during the swearing in ceremony on Oct. 25.

A new era on Okotoks Town Council is officially underway.

The five new councillors joining incumbent Ken Heemeryck and councillor-turned-mayor Tanya Thorn were sworn in during an Oct. 25 ceremony.  

Thorn takes the seat of the late Mayor Bill Robertson, who passed away in July following a battle with cancer. She won the race with 4,409 votes over Jeff Reinhart’s 1,876 and Naydene Lewis’ 1,166.  

Heemeryck was the only incumbent up for re-election and secured his third term following the vote. Newcomers to council include Brent Robinson, Cheryl Actemichuk, Rachel Swendseid, Oliver Hallmark and Gord Lang.  

“I feel really invigorated by the opportunity that is in front of us, with a brand-new council [with the exception of Thorn and Heemeryck],” said Actemichuk. “I think it’s really exciting that the town residents got out and voted, and obviously want some change and want some different energy and passion in there, and I’m looking forward to it.” 

Actemichuk, who is the former executive director of the Okotoks and District Chamber of Commerce, garnered the second most votes out of all the candidates, with 2,952.  

She ran a platform highlighting economic development and manageable housing costs, as well as the importance of creating a welcoming environment for senior citizens.  

The new councillor said she foresees water, residential and commercial development, and overall transparency as issues that will be at forefront of the term.  

“I know that the Town has heard loud and clear that residents want transparency, and they want council to be held accountable,” Actemichuk said.  

Swendseid, who is also set to begin her first term, secured 2,360 votes on Oct. 18.  

She said she that as orientation has already begun, she is excited for what is to come in the next four years while working among town council.  

“[We need] to really [set] a solid foundation as a team so that we can serve this community to the best of our ability,” Swendseid said.  

During the campaign, she ran on issues such as social and environmental policies, affordable housing development and water security.  

She explained that she expects a priority for the new group will be learning the ins and out of the job in addition to councillors recalling their campaign promises and considering the best course of action to implement them with consideration of the feedback given by voters.  

Ahead of the Oct. 25 ceremony, Swendseid said that her mind was on the late Mayor Robertson, whom she explained was a former teacher of hers and a political role model.  

“I’ll be thinking of him,” she said. “I’m sure some of the other candidates will be as well.  

“Just to honour him as we change council and to really remember the amazing impact that he had on this community and municipal politics.”  

Robertson was first elected to council in 1995 and served for 15 years before going on to become mayor up and until his passing.  

The first organizational meeting of the term will be held on Nov. 1.  

The Town of Okotoks election results were made official on Oct. 22 with the voter turnout officially at 7,561, representing 35.75 per cent of eligible voters. The voter turnout was an increase of 33 per cent from the 2017 municipal election.