It's often the same refrain around election time: Change is needed. We want change. Vote for change.
Except, the voters don't always get the message. In this municipal election in North Bay, they got the message and they voted for change.
Old boys' club, meet the new girls' club.
Pending the verification of the results, Peter Chirico will be North Bay's new mayor. Chirico, the former deputy mayor, received just over 700 votes more than Johanne Brousseau, the former city councillor in a close contest. Political newcomer Leslie McVeety ran a dignified campaign and finished third.
See related: Emotional win for new mayor Peter Chirico
If the results stand as reported Monday evening, Chirico will be the head of a diverse, green, yet eager council. The top three spots were swept by women with no municipal political experience, led by Maggie Horsfield who surged to the top of the rankings in claiming the deputy mayor's chair (see video above).
See also: North Bay municipal election 2022 live blog. Chirico is new mayor
"I'm very humbled," said Horsfield from North Bay City Hall, Monday evening. "I wasn't anticipating getting the deputy mayor position if that's where the final results end up. I'm really excited to see where the next four years go."
Finishing within 100 votes of Horsfield was Lana Mitchell with Justine Mallah in third.
Mitchell said citizens can expect straight talk and hard work from her first foray into municipal politics and identified some immediate priorities.
"I'm grateful, excited and ready to get started. There is so much potential, North Bay is so amazing. We have some challenges we have to tackle and the budget will be one of them — everything is going up and we have to figure that one out. The arena. And, we have to deal with a wellness centre for people struggling with mental health and addictions. Not just where we warehouse them — which we're going to have to do immediately to protect them from the elements with winter coming — where we remove the systemic neglect that's been going on for quite a few years now and start getting them the supports they need."
Mallah is not only a newcomer to this council but also a relative newcomer to North Bay. She agrees her strong showing is a testament to an accessible and transparent campaign approach that saw her knock on 3,500 doors.
"I'm surprised by some of the folks who did not get in. Overall, I'm very pleased for Maggie and Lana. They are very strong advocates for the community. I'm very pleased with my own showing. Having only lived here for four years, I really had to get out there and introduce myself. I'm still a little bit shocked. It will be a really neat experience and I look forward to putting the community first. And, that's what I will do. I want to hear your concerns. I want to increase accountability and trust."
Veteran councillors Chris Mayne and Mark King placed fourth and fifth within a few votes of one another. The two major players in the Cassellholme redevelopment saga were joined by a third, in another newcomer to North Bay politics, former Cassellholme CEO Jamie Lowery, who finished eighth.
King said he felt confident in his chances going in but was taken aback somewhat by how many new faces were chosen by the voters. He is eager to continue in his role as Board Chair of DNSSAB.
"I would hope that would happen," he said in reference to DNSSAB. "We have a tremendous amount of work to do, we have lots of stuff in the mill right now. It's something I really enjoy and it's something I think I'm reasonably good at."
As far as the makeup of the council, King observed he was "surprised at the new faces ending up in the top three positions. Those are heavy portfolios. I'm not sure those individuals have any idea what they're in for. I'm hoping Mayor Chirico swears in council on Nov. 15 — that's the day after Mayor Al leaves office — there's an awful lot of work backed up at this point. We have to get to work on it as fast as possible."
For his part, Lowery was thrilled the voters had the confidence in him to get the job done and is already looking ahead to this term of council.
"I will be pushing for some tremendous change here in North Bay," he said. "I love this council. We've got some energy. We've got some youth. We've got some enthusiasm. We've got some people who are going to put the work in."
Sara Inch and Gary Gardiner, a 2018 candidate for mayor, round out the six new council faces, joining multi-term councillors Tanya Vrebosch and Mac Bain.
Vrebosch has often spoken of breaking down barriers for young girls and women to establish a foothold in politics and her re-election continues that advocacy. Some of her new council colleagues agree.
Horsfield is pleased with the opportunity to act as a leader to young women.
"During the campaign, I got to meet with many young people and women who really felt inspired by what myself and others were doing," she shared. "I really hope it encourages more people to get involved in different ways in leadership roles in the community."
Mallah agreed that the effect on young people to see women in positions of power is invaluable. She recounted an interaction with a pre-teen who she met while knocking on doors and who was as inspired by her candidacy as Mallah was with the young girl's eagerness.
"Research shows that having women involved in politics equals more policies that are better for quality of life," she added. "That benefits the community. That girl I met will likely be here one day, too."