After nine years on Courtenay council, Larry Jangula is moving up to the mayor’s seat.
Jangula received 2,543 votes in Saturday’s municipal election to become the city’s new mayor. He received only 77 more votes than incumbent Greg Phelps, who earned 2,466. Newcomer Bill Bate received 257 votes.
“I’m amazed; I’m overwhelmed,” Jangula said Saturday night after hearing the election results. “I want to thank all the people who voted for me and thank the people who did not vote for me being part of the democratic process.”
Jangula congratulated his two challengers, as well as all the councillors who were elected and every person who put his or her name forward.
Jangula wanted to especially thank his wife Jeanette and his two sons, Todd and Craig, for all their support, and he expressed gratitude to his campaign team.
Phelps, who has been Courtenay’s mayor for three years and has been on council since 2003, says his No. 1 concern is how close the election was in both Courtenay and Comox.
“What that indicates to me is somehow we have this mass polarization of the population, and that’s not healthy for a community,” he said. “The newly elected officials will have to address this.”
Phelps feels that somehow, the municipal election has been made into a left-right issue, and there shouldn’t be any politics at the local level — it should be about who is working to do the best for the community.
Phelps is “appalled” by the 28.9-per-cent voter turnout in Courtenay.
“In spite of the fact we had 19 candidates, we had at least two groups trying to publicize and/or influence the outcome, voter turnout actually went down,” he said. “It’s shocking. It’s very frustrating.”
Phelps believes Comox Valley Common Sense, which endorsed seven candidates in Courtenay — five of whom were elected including Jangula — played a big role in this year’s election.
“I think they had a major impact on the campaign, which to me is unfortunate,” he said. “I don’t mind if groups come forward, like the Citizen Voice, where you knew exactly who they were, or if it was a labour endorsement, you knew exactly who it was.
“But for a special-interest group of faceless, nameless individuals … I just wish they had come clean. The other thing that is frustrating is that they spent a lot of money endorsing their candidates, and some of the seniors actually showed up at the polling station carrying those cards, thinking those who were the team the city council had endorsed. So some people, I think, were unduly influenced by this.
“I think it’s a sad day for the Valley because now we actually have party politics; we have slates of candidates. I don’t think politics belongs in this.”
As for what’s next, Phelps says he’s going to look at his options.
“I’ve jokingly always said, ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it,’ and this is a fork in the road,” he said.
Looking back on his three years as mayor, Phelps says he is proud of what Courtenay did as a city.
“Our list of accomplishments is actually quite phenomenal, and that all got lost in the political rhetoric of left and right, and that is really sad because we had a really good group that actually worked together quite well,” he said.
Bate was happy to share his ideas with people.
“I know I didn’t get very many votes, but at the same time, I printed no brochures, I printed no signs and knocked on no doors,” he said. “It was myself, my son and my sister when she was able. It was mostly talking about ideas.
“I know I was a very dark horse, as it were, but I’m quite pleased. I respect both gentlemen for the good things they did and hopefully will continue to do.”
Bate found it was mostly people approaching him because they recognized him, rather than him approaching people.
He says that while he was speaking to residents, they told him about feeling a sense of partnership or sense of respect from city officials is missing, as well as the lack of a sense of community, and they spoke about some of the contradictions they see in regards to bylaws and bylaw enforcement.
Bate found the low voter turnout disheartening.
“I guess it’s just creating a new challenge in terms of making things happen,” he said. “When you consider the turnout, a good political organization, they could just take care of engineering the vote almost if there’s such low turnout.”
Jangula will be sworn in Dec. 5.
e-Larry Jangula 2543
Greg Phelps 2466
Bill Bate 257