After several years of unprecedented change unfolding across the community and around the globe, many Penticton voters stuck with the familiar when they headed to the ballot box on Saturday.
Dan Ashton became the first mayor in nearly two decades to gain re-election, staving off main rival Julius Bloomfield by 146 votes. Four of the five incumbent councillors also received a vote of confidence, with Garry Litke, Andrew Jakubeit, Judy Sentes and John Vassilaki back for another term.
But while Penticton council may look familiar on the surface, the inner workings of the group will likely undergo a considerable shift.
Local businesswoman and former professional athlete Helena Konanz will join 22-year-old Harvard grad Wes Hopkin as the new voices on council, bringing a different perspective to many of the issues facing the community.
But the biggest change will come as the result of incumbent Mike Pearce going down to defeat at the polls. (Dan Albas resigned his council seat earlier this year when he was elected MP for Okanagan Coquihalla.)
Pearce wielded a large amount of influence around the council table, shaping the debate and swaying other members to his line of thinking. The former Penticton mayor led the charge to bring a provincial jail to the community and take action on a growing deer population. He also served as point-man on the committee overseeing operations at the controversial South Okanagan Events Centre. In the end, it was that outspoken advocacy on controversial issues that likely brought on his political defeat.
While it is still too early to predict the direction the incoming council will take over the coming term, it will likely face a smoother ride than its predecessor, which did much of the heavy lifting on the tough decisions to get the city’s financial house back in order.
— Penticton Western News