Veteran councillor Tim Lauer will be joined by newcomer Janet-Lynne Durnford as the city’s Ward 4 representatives following Monday evening’s municipal election.
In a trend that rang across the city, Ward 4 voters opted for a mix of experienced and fresh faces to represent their interests at city hall.
Lauer topped the polls among all councillors elected in the 2022 municipal election, finishing with 1,362 votes. The veteran council member will return for a seventh term in office.
Durnford came out on top in a close race for second place, garnering 919 votes to edge out Paula Hill-Coulson’s 900.
Durnford said she feels "fantastic" about winning the close race for a Ward 4 position.
“I’m feeling fantastic. I am grateful: I feel like the Ward 4 contest was really collegial,” she said. “I thought Paula had won. We kind of had results halfway through it, (and) I’d actually sent her congratulations.
“I’m just thrilled, and I think that there’s a really interesting mix on council. It’s very diverse for Orillia; everybody’s coming with different perspectives.”
Durnford’s number one priority getting started is to get an affordable housing coordinator hired as part of the 2023 budget.
“I think that the motion to hire an affordable housing coordinator has to happen right away, and that's going to start us on the right path because I think housing is incredibly important,” she said.
Aside from housing, the biggest concerns she heard on the campaign trail include improving local transit, implementing the city’s climate action plan and addressing pollution in the city’s lakes.
“Transit came up a lot and the Orillia climate future plans … so that's another one that I think has to be dealt with very quickly,” she said.
“People are really, really concerned about sprawl and also that our lakes, our shorelines and wetlands, (and) the agricultural land around us are preserved.”
Lauer said he appreciates the continued support from the public after many years serving on council.
"I really appreciate the support I got this time again. You know, after this many elections, it feels really good to get that kind of continued support," he said. "I always like to think I won the election in the four years leading up to the election. I take a lot of pride in handling issues and concerns that constituents have."
Lauer said getting all members of council "up to speed" will be the key issue getting started.
"We have five new members of council. Getting everybody up to speed is paramount," he said. "I think we're going to have to hit the ground running here. We've got some real urgent issues coming up this winter and spring, and it's going to be important that all all councillors have all the information they need to get right at it."
Some of the pressing issues Lauer highlighted included addressing homelessness and the opioid crisis, addressing climate change and the looming possibility of annexation, and balancing all these needs with rampant inflation upping the cost of living.
"Inflation is going to put a lot of pressure on the budget, so we're going to have to make some hard choices and, and make some early," he said.
Following Hill-Coulson in third, Joe Winacott received 452 votes, Pat Reid received 398 votes, and Kyle Peacock received 242 votes.