From the November 15, 2000 Edition

Gerald Shortt elected first Mayor of Georgian Highlands
By Chris Fell Express Staff

A new council for a new town was elected on Monday night. Voters of the new Georgian Highlands selected the town's very first council on Monday night and the results can only be described as a township sweep. Incumbents from the former St. Vincent and Sydenham townships dominated the evening winning six of the seven council positions. Of the six current Meaford council members only one, Paul Hutchinson was re-elected.

Veteran St. Vincent Reeve Gerald Shortt will be the first mayor of Georgian Highlands after he defeated current Meaford Mayor Doug Grant, current Sydenham Reeve Deborah Young and Meaford resident Ian Fife in a race that saw 5,622 total ballots cast for the position of mayor. Shortt polled close to 40% of the votes cast, finishing with a total of 2,337 followed by Grant at 1,572, Young at 1,162 and Fife at 651.

The race for Deputy Mayor wasn't even close. Incumbent Sydenham councillor Robert Reid won a convincing victory with 2,778 votes, followed by incumbent Meaford councillors Bob Osman at 1,406 and Bonnie Jolley at 1,221.

The race for council wasn't very close either. The five that were elected: St. Vincent councillors Diane Hurlburt and Harley Greenfield, Sydenham councillor Linda van Aalst, Meaford councillor Paul Hutchinson and former Sydenham Reeve Sam Luckhardt all jumped out in front early and then jockeyed for position the rest of the night. Hurlburt topped the polls with 3,176 votes, followed by van Aalst at 3,168, Greenfield at 3,048, Hutchinson at 3,000 and Luckhardt 2,884. Not elected were Sydenham councillor Dave Stewart with 2,239 votes, Meaford councillor Don Fountain 1,976, Mike Hunter 1,707 and newcomer Tim Archer at 945.

It was a long night for the candidates and members of the public gathered at the Georgian Bay Secondary School cafeteria where the results were posted, with the final tally coming in at midnight. New Georgian Highlands Mayor Gerald Shortt was excited about his election victory.

"I didn't get as many votes as these other guys did," Shortt joked. "I feel humble that I won and I thank the people for the confidence they've shown in me and I will try my best to do the right things to make this community better," said Shortt. Shortt admitted that he was nervous most of the night and was pleased by the make up of the new council that was elected.

"All the people that ran are responsible citizens, this election has been a real experience because the municipality is so large I couldn't canvass every household and I would have liked to have gotten to meet all the people," he added.

When asked what his top priority for the new council would be, Shortt didn't hesitate at all when he said "taxes." In his political career which began in 1972 St. Vincent has always had one of the lowest tax rates in the county. He said it was important to begin the budget planning process immediately.

"I hope we could do it on the same tax rate of St. Vincent last year, I'd like to see those numbers and see what services we can provide at that rate. I think we need to get our taxes down so the Minister's Order for a tax freeze doesn't have to apply," said Shortt.

The soft spoken Reid, who will join Shortt as Georgian Highlands representatives on county council, said he grew more nervous as the night went on and his lead continued to grow.

"This is really humbling. I expected it to be a lot closer and I wasn't as nervous as I am now when I got here. We have a big job to do, we have three very distinct municipalities. I've been trying to get a feel for what the people of Georgian Highlands were looking for and they want to see this new municipality come together," said Reid.

Hurlburt, who finished atop the polls for the race for council was pleased with the outcome as she watched the results pour in from around Georgian Highlands with her family.

"I'm really pleased and I'm looking forward to working with the new group and getting at the business for the Town of Georgian Highlands," said Hurlburt, noting that her top priorities were getting a budget and dealing with waste management issues.

Sydenham incumbent Linda van Aalst was also pleased with the results.

"I'm excited and just a little overwhelmed at all the support," she said. "I've been told the first six months of a new municipality are the whole transition where you mend fences and get going in the right direction. I think we'll have a good council and a good balance," she said.

The lone member of Meaford council to find himself back on council was long time councillor Paul Hutchinson was stoic in his victory.

"I don't know what to say, everybody thought it was a close battle. People have to work together now, there's no more boundaries and we have to all work for the best of the new community," said Hutchinson, who laughed when told he was a "an urban island in a sea of rural."

Former Sydenham Reeve Sam Luckhardt was on the defeated side of the ledger following the election in 1997 when he was defeated by Reeve Young. He said it felt better to win again.

"Nobody likes to lose," said Luckhardt. "Hopefully I can contribute to the new municipality and I'm looking forward to the challenge and we will need a lot of cooperation coming from the three former municipalities to bring Georgian Highlands to the forefront in this new age," he said.

St. Vincent incumbent Harley Greenfield completing his second campaign with an election win said the results went as he expected them to.

"I figured six rural and one urban in some ways that's good. There will be a different mind set and direction and more patience and research into some of the decisions," he said. "This is going to be a huge job and the candidates that have done well tonight work well together which is important because hopefully there will be a lot of harmony. We need a unified council," said Greenfield.

Meaford Mayor Doug Grant was a late entry into the race and finished second behind Shortt. He was upbeat all night as the results came in and said he wasn't surprised by what he saw, but admitted he was somewhat concerned about how things would go in the future.

"They have a tremendous amount of things they have to learn in a hurry," said Grant. "Mr. Shortt has been very gracious in his win and there's a lot of expectations on him," said Grant, who joked that with his political career ending he would have more time to spend with his wife and daughter.

Meaford councillors Don Fountain and Bonnie Jolley were quiet and gracious in defeat.

"Obviously the people feel the councillors from the townships are the ones to represent all. The people have spoken and that's the way it is," said Fountain.

While Jolley said every campaign had winners and losers. "Thanks for the memories. It was six years of learning. You always know it's a gamble going in," said Jolley.