The votes are in - candidate Barry Kreller will be the sixth member of Flin Flon's city council.
The candidate came away with more than half of the total votes cast in the byelection, receiving 353 votes out of 670 total votes cast. Carrie Hume finished second with 134 votes, with Tom Therien finishing third with 124 votes. Angela Simpson received 39 votes, while Gatlin Church finished last with 20 votes.
Almost 200 more voters cast ballots in this year's byelection than in the 2016 city council byelection.
Kreller will join Mayor Cal Huntley and councillors Colleen Arnold, Tim Babcock, Karen MacKinnon, Colleen McKee and Ken Pawlachuk on council. Kreller’s seat was formerly occupied by Guy Rideout, who was first elected in that same 2016 byelection and stepped down last winter. Kreller will be sworn in at the next city council meeting, set to be held at City Hall at 7 p.m. Nov. 3.
In an interview with The Reminder shortly after the results were released, Kreller said he felt positive about the community support he received during the short campaign.
"I feel good. I've heard from so many people today, people telling me they voted for me and wishing me good luck. It's been pretty cool,” he said.
"That's very gratifying. I had a lot of people backing me and in a small byelection in a municipality, a lot of people don't have any organization. I just had people stepping forward all the time, wanting to be there."
Kreller also thanked the other four candidates who ran, praising them for their willingness to get involved.
“I really appreciate the other four people that let their name stand," he said.
"Five people. That really shows that there's interest."
While signs with the words “Kreller for Council” appeared around town almost overnight early in the campaign, Kreller ran much of his campaign online. A Facebook group for his campaign, started barely a month ago, now has around 200 likes and posts from it were shared often around area groups. Kreller also received endorsements online from a pair of former city councillors, Leslie Beck and Bill Hanson.
"The response online was absolutely mind-boggling. I had heard from people that I hadn't heard from in decades and it was just a really warm, positive experience and thing to do. It helped fill my three or four weeks of the campaign with a lot of fun. I had phone calls with people from all over the country - Flin Flonners are everywhere," said Kreller.
"I had so many people private messaging me - they're still coming in now - congratulating me."
Kreller also mentioned the recent candidate questionnaires featured in The Reminder, mentioning that residents had informed him they chose him based on his answers.
"The voters read that. I had so much positive response, people saying my responses to those questions... my concerns and values, one person put it, gave them hope for the community again."
A former Flin Flon resident, Kreller lived in British Columbia before returning home recently. At one point, Kreller owned and operated the A&W restaurant in The Pas.
"Because I hadn't been living in Flin Flon, all my friends on Facebook are from elsewhere, I had very few from here. I have a lot now," he joked.
"Above everything else, I could say that I had fun.”
When asked how the vote went, senior election official Katy Anderson said she was pleased with the byelection from a logistics standpoint.
“It went very smoothly. We were really happy with how we organized it. There was not very much wait time. The most I ever saw today would be maybe three or four people at one poll.”
Special rules and procedures were in effect for the vote to avoid possible COVID-19 spread. There were marks made on the floor to keep people spaced out while waiting to vote or while voting and hand sanitizer stations by the City Hall entrance. All voters were mandated to wear masks while inside City Hall and while voting. Workers wore masks and full-face plastic shields during the election.
Anderson thanked all election volunteers, City workers who shovelled and gritted steps at City Hall before the vote and City of Flin Flon administrative assistant Lindsay Shirran, who helped count votes and oversaw the election.
“The poll clerks were very quick. I’m really proud of the whole group of them - they had to wear those masks and shields all day when people were there.”
“They worked really hard and I thought they did very well.”
To fight any possible COVID-19 spread, the City of Flin Flon hosted only one polling location at City Hall, instead of the two location set-up often seen in full municipal elections. The hall featured a one-way track for voters - come in through the main lobby, line up inside on the marks, enter council chambers to confirm identity and address, vote and exit through the side door outside.
Anderson said changing the polls to only one, centralized location made work easier for election workers.
“We did it at City Hall this time to try and contain COVID-19, so it was an experiment to see how it would work. Both Lindsey [Shirran] and I feel that it worked well. We thinking that we would do it even for a full election,” Anderson said.
“When we combined the polls, there still was very little wait time, but it was really handy for us to have the office and the copying machine and everything we needed right at our fingertips.”