Elec­tion fever still reg­is­ter­ing in Car­bon­ear

Res­i­dents will soon head back to the polls to elect a new mayor

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

For the third time in a short span, res­i­dents of Car­bon­ear will again be head­ing back to the polls in the com­ing weeks to ex­er­cise their demo­cratic right.

This time, they will be se­lect­ing a new mayor to re­place Sam Slade, who won a by­elec­tion Nov. 26 to be­come the new Lib­eral MHA for Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace.

Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously on Dec. 2 to hold a by­elec­tion to fill the mayor’s post, but not be­fore some dis­agree­ment about how the process should un­fold.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act, the town had three op­tions when it came to fill­ing the va­cancy. One of those op­tions in­cluded tap­ping act­ing mayor and vet­eran mu­nic­i­pal leader Ge­orge Butt Jr. to take on the top post for the re­main­der of the term, which ends in the fall of 2017.

Butt topped the polls in the Sept. 24 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, gar­ner­ing 1,544 votes in a field of 11 other can­di­dates hop­ing to fill six coun­cil seats.

Slade also won a con­vinc­ing win in the sep­a­rate bal­lot for mayor, de­feat­ing for­mer deputy mayor Ches Ash.

Butt was named deputy mayor at the first meet­ing of the new coun­cil on Oct. 7.

How­ever, the po­lit­i­cal land­scape was rat­tled just days af­ter the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion when Jerome Kennedy, who had served as the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive MHA for Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace since 2007, an­nounced his sud­den res­ig­na­tion.

This trig­gered a pro­vin­cial by­elec­tion, and Slade took a leave of ab­sence in or­der to cam­paign for a seat in the House of As­sem­bly. Butt be­came act­ing mayor, and made no se­cret of the fact he would wel­come tak­ing on the job on a full-time ba­sis if it be­came avail­able.

That’s ex­actly what hap­pened, with Slade win­ning the by­elec­tion by a mar­gin of some 450 votes. It was Slade’s sec­ond elec­tion vic­tory in two months. He promptly re­signed from coun­cil on Dec. 2, and is ex­pected to be sworn in as the area’s new MHA this week.

But in­stead of el­e­vat­ing Butt into the mayor’s chair, a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors had a dif­fer­ent idea, with coun­cil­lors Ed Goff, Ray Noel and David Kennedy lead­ing the charge to hold a new elec­tion for mayor.

The is­sue played out dur­ing the Dec. 2 coun­cil meet­ing, with coun­cil­lors Bill Bow­man and Frank Butt ar­gu­ing that a sep­a­rate vote for mayor was un­nec­es­sary. They con­tended that Ge­orge Butt Jr. should be named mayor, and that a by­elec­tion be held to fill his seat on coun­cil.

Ge­orge Butt was not per­mit­ted to take part in any dis­cus­sion on the mat­ter, since he had al­ready stated pub­licly that he would seek­ing the mayor’s chair.

Coun. Noel be­gan the dis­cus­sion, say­ing he be­lieved the cit­i­zens of the town should elect a mayor, since the town will al­ready be head­ing to the polls.

“The town will be hav­ing a by­elec­tion re­gard­less ( for a coun­cil­lor or mayor), so it’s not go­ing to cost any ad­di­tional money,” he said.

A by­elec­tion in Car­bon­ear costs some $10,000.

Coun. Frank Butt coun­tered, say­ing he would like the deputy mayor to step in.

“I think the deputy mayor po­si­tion is a pre­lude to mayor if any­thing hap­pens,” he ex­plained.

Coun. Butt said he has come across many peo­ple who have been ap­a­thetic to what the coun­cil does to choose the mayor, and noted only one per­son has said they would like a new elec­tion for mayor.

Coun. Bow­man agreed, say­ing he has heard both sides from con­stituents, but saw noth­ing wrong with al­low­ing the deputy mayor the op­por­tu­nity to step in, and al­luded to the act­ing mayor’s over­whelm­ing sup­port in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

But Kennedy and Goff said the fact that coun­cil was so early into a four-year term con­vinced them of the need for a new elec­tion for mayor.

Goff ex­plained that the deputy mayor is a “very pop­u­lar fella,” but peo­ple he had spo­ken to said they would like to see a sep­a­rate mayor’s vote.

A mo­tion that Ge­orge Butt Jr. be named mayor for the re­main­der of the term — put for­ward by Coun. Frank Butt — was de­feated fol­low­ing a tie vote of 2-2. Coun. Noel did not vote, since he was chair­ing the meet­ing at the time of the mo­tion.

A sec­ond mo­tion that a sep­a­rate elec­tion be held for mayor was passed by a unan­i­mous vote.

When nom­i­na­tions are called, those seek­ing the po­si­tion of mayor who are cur­rently on coun­cil will have to re­sign their seat. This will also trig­ger another call for nom­i­na­tions to fill any new va­can­cies.

A date has not been set for the by­elec­tion, but town ad­min­is­tra­tor Cyn­thia Davis con­firmed the town has three months be­fore it has to call one.

A con­tested race

Re­gard­less of the date, hype is al­ready start­ing to build about who will be the next mayor.

Ge­orge Butt Jr. has con­firmed he will be a can­di­date, and for­mer deputy mayor Ches Ash also con­firmed last week that he will be on the bal­lot.

As for who will be the next deputy mayor, Coun. Frank Butt told The Com­pass he would ac­cept the job. He re­ceived the sec­ond high­est num­ber of votes in the elec­tion, and said he hopes to one day serve as mayor.

Ches Ash

Ge­orge Butt

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