We won’t know who will make up the next iteration of Flin Flon’s city council or school board, but one thing is clear - both will look quite different.
Out of the six councillors on the City’s executive board, only one is running to head back as a councillor this fall. That incumbent is Bill Hanson, who will run for a seventh term on council after returning in a byelection last year.
Hanson was first elected to city council in 1992, leaving after one term before running again and winning in 2002. Hanson held that seat again until he stepped down from council in 2018. Hanson works as a carpenter, general repairman and trades lead with the Northern Health Region.
When councillors were asked of their plans during the Sept. 6 council meeting, only Hanson confirmed he would run again for the spot.
“I picked up the papers today,” Hanson said at the meeting.
Two councillors, Tim Babcock and Leslie Beck, are both running for the mayor’s chair this fall - in doing so, both will leave their former spots as councillors behind.
Colleen Arnold won her seat in the 2018 local election, but will not stand for a second term in office. Recently retired from her post as executive director of the Women’s Resource Centre, Arnold said she and her husband will travel but keep their main residence in Flin Flon.
“I’m going to become a snowbird with my husband,” said Arnold.
Councillor Karen MacKinnon announced she would not stand for reelection back in May, serving her last meeting as an active councillor Sept. 6 - MacKinnon went back to her native Cape Breton Island in the wake of her father’s death, but will return to Flin Flon and stay in the community after funeral arrangements.
MacKinnon was first elected to city council back in 2006 and has stayed on the council ever since, winning seats in four consecutive elections. A former employee of The Reminder, MacKinnon has also served as the president of the Flin Flon and District Chamber of Commerce and has served in several capacities with the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM), including as the group’s northern Manitoba director.
MacKinnon thanked councillors for their time and expressed gratitude to the public for four terms on council, becoming the longest-tenured woman in the history of Flin Flon’s city council.
“I've been honoured to represent the north, in both Flin Flon and on the AMM [Association of Manitoba Municipalities] for how many years and I’ve met so many amazing people over the years. It’s been quite an adventure,” said MacKinnon, choking back tears.
Ken Pawlachuk will also not run for reelection. Born and raised in Flin Flon, Pawlachuk was a miner and refrigeration mechanic in his professional life, running for council for the first time and winning shortly after he retired in 2010.
After three terms on council, the smart-mouthed soon-to-be 73-year-old Pawlachuk is now seeking to retire from his retirement job.
“Twelve years… maybe I’m getting too old and forgetful,” quipped Pawlachuk.
Things aren’t much different for the Flin Flon School Division (FFSD) board of trustees, where only two trustees - Tim Davis and Leslie Fernandes - have confirmed they will run again this fall. Trustees Jill Akkerman, Leslie Power, Amy Sapergia Green, Murray Skeavington and Ebony Trubiak have all confirmed they won’t run again.
Out of the three confirmed trustees who will step away, Skeavington is the longest-tenured, having been first elected in 2002 - only Davis has been on the board as long as him. Skeavington chaired the board for several years and has represented it at several events. That includes the recent annual national meeting of the Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA), where Skeavington represented the board and provided a report to the board during the August 23 meeting.
Skeavington was one of the loudest voices in the north against the Bill 64 effort before the proposed legislation was torpedoed last year. He said at the meeting that he hopes members of the public will step up to run for the board, believing that similar legislation to Bill 64 may be on the horizon, with the province able to point to low turnout or interest as an excuse to consolidate if few people show up.
“I’m not running again. The only thing I’ll say is that this is the one time that you want to make sure we have an election. I think this government is waiting to have people either acclaimed or have to be appointed so they can go ‘we don’t need school divisions, we need a new selection, we need bigger areas,’” he said.
“If people are thinking of running, this would be the time to run.”
Akkerman, Power and Trubiak all step down from the board after one term - all three were elected in 2018. Power cited the general difficulty of the past four years as a main reason to not run for a second term.
“It's been a really challenging term, I think, between the potential school restructure and COVID-19, in my only term… It hasn't been fun,” she said.
Power is also the only Indigenous member of the board and hopes to see more Indigenous representation on the board in the future.
“I would encourage the community to consider the representation on this board. We're supposed to be representing our community and I don't think we are right now with one Indigenous representative here. I think we need to see more representation here, for our kids and for our community,” she said.
Sapergia Green, who also served for a time as the board’s chair and vice-chair, will also step away from her trusteeship. Sapergia Green has served two terms on the board and was to-the-point about her future plans.
“I’m not running. I’m retiring,” she said.
The next Manitoba local election is set to take place October 26. Nominations for people hoping to run for either mayor, city council or FFSD board trustee can turn in their nomination paperwork at City Hall between until Sept. 20 at 4 p.m.
Nominations must be made in writing and have to be signed by at least 25 voters and include a declaration of qualifications of the candidate.
Nomination paperwork can be acquired by contacting senior election official Janice Bee at (306) 575-7216 or by contacting City chief administrative officer Nicole Hartman at (204) 687-7503.