The numbers speak for themselves.
With 732 votes, constituents in the Municipality of Bayham elected Cliff Evanitski the new deputy mayor in a by-election Monday night.
In what many considered to be an emotional, closely contested and somewhat controversial by-election, in the end, it was all about the people and what they wanted.
“It’s probably indicative of what the public are feeling about certain issues right now,” said Evanitski. “I’m just really glad that they’ve got confidence to return me back to the post. I’m looking forward to using my experience to move the municipality forward in a positive direction.”
The unofficial results came in just after 8:30 p.m. and had Evanitski leading the race from the beginning. By the end of the night, he captured a total of 732 votes, followed by runner-up Lynn Acre with 467 votes, Rainey C. Weisler came third with 126 votes and Bob Lozon in fourth with a total of 40 votes.
For the other candidates in the running, this was not the outcome they had hoped for, but conceded to the democratic process, putting forth their best efforts over the past several weeks.
“Am I disappointed, no not really,” said Lozon. “The people are out there and they’re voting for what they want to see. There’s been some very contentious issues, but prolific people out there – they’re all good candidates,” he added. “At the end of the day, I met a lot of nice people who’ve got a lot of concerns and to me, that’s politics. If we see these resolve, then I think the political venue has answered itself.”
Third place finisher Rainey C. Weisler said she was thankful for the experience.
“Bayham voted – it is what it is. I think we all did our best so I have nothing to feel bad about,” she said. “The whole process has been a very good learning experience and I’ve had a lot of support from family and friends, so it’s been a really positive experience.”
A disappointed Lynn Acre took second place Monday night and expressed her thoughts about certain issues.
“I’m just concerned that project Ojibwa was the big factor that caused people to vote against me where they had supported me in the past. And I think people were voting out of fear rather than looking at the big picture,” said Acre. “However, I’m sure as things go down the road they will see there’s going to be a success down there (in Port Burwell). I wish Cliff and council the best for another year and a half.”
Bayham mayor Paul Ens said he was pleased to see the people have an opportunity to partake in the democratic process.
“There was a lot of emotion in this by-election and I think all candidates deserve recognition and appreciation for coming out and putting their names forward,” said Ens. “They’re putting their name forward to help make an improvement or help out the community.
“I’m glad we had an election – and I’m glad to see the people have chosen a representative for them. It’s better to have a wide input by the people versus four people deciding,” he added.
Evanitski said that there were reasons why Project Ojibwa had a noticeable impact on the by-election results.
“Certainly it was one of the big issues that people brought up because of the dollar value involved there, and obviously it’s a huge project, a huge undertaking and a huge commitment by our part. But at the end of the day it’s not the municipality’s project, it’s that of the Elgin Military Museum – they’re moving it forward and we’re going to do our best to help them move that forward,” he said.
Since amalgamation in Bayham, there have been just two by-elections for the position of deputy mayor – one Monday night, and the first back in July 1998. Evanitski has won both.
And judging from the support he’s received in recent months, Evanitski was not surprised by Monday’s vote.
“Based on the calls, the phone messages, the emails I’ve been getting since September of last year – I think a lot of people felt that there needed to be some accountability and questions answered,” he said. “And I think a lot of people know I’m going to ask the tough questions and they know we’re going to get answers for those questions.”
And this time around, many believe Evanitski is once again, the person for the job.
“People understand that councils are elected to make decisions on their behalf, but they also want to make sure they’re kept informed as they’re moving along and that what happens makes sense.”