Gerald Aalbers will be the next mayor of Lloydminster.
Aalbers won out over sitting councilor Jason Whiting, and returning candidate Cheryl Ross, taking 4,081 votes. Whiting was second in the running at 1,791 votes, and Ross came in third, with 207 votes.
Aalbers kicked off his bid for the mayor’s chair back in April of 2016, running on a platform of honesty and transparency in the municipal government.
At the time of his campaign kickoff, he made reforming the transparency of the municipal government a central plank of his run for public office, after repeatedly asking questions of the City regarding the contract signed with former Lloydminster mayor Jeff Mulligan, and also about the Lloydminster Utility Corporation, which had been in development at the time.
“I’ve had a tough time getting answers,” said Aalbers, at the time.
“People keep telling me they’ve got the same problem, that they’ve asked questions, and the answers are not clear, concise, and appear to be straightforward, and they’d like that. That’s why I’ve decided to run for mayor, to try to be able to give people that transparency that they’re looking for.”
During his campaign, Aalbers continued on the theme of transparency, making a promise during the All-Candidates Forum held on October 18 to publish his expense accounts monthly, as well as asking his fellow council members and the senior administration members of the city to do the same.
He also said he would make dealing with the wastewater treatment plant his first priority, with the first step being the extension of the deadline from the Saskatchewan government to have the plant in place.
The challenges that Aalbers and the new council will immediately face are twofold, with a $10.5 million operating deficit needing to be shaved down in the budget process over the next few months, and the rapidly-approaching deadline on the wastewater treatment plant.
After thanking his supporters in a speech at the Legacy Centre, Aalbers spoke about his win with the press. He said that the voters in Lloydminster had “sent a message” by sending in new councillors and a new mayor, and said he would want to get to know the new council-elects to prepare for the transition into government.
As for his push for transparency, Aalbers made it clear he was still focused on getting answers out to the public.
“We’ll be laying some things out at the City for people to come and look at,” said Aalbers.
“People have asked, they want to see transparency, that’s what I campaigned on, that’s what I was elected on, I will bring transparency to City Hall. It will be bringing out documents, they’ll be up for public viewing, I’m not sure of the exact details yet because I’m sure that there are some legitimate issues that have to be worked out at City Hall, but we’ll get those documents out, because there have been a lot of questions asked by the media, by the public, I believe an answer is required, and we’ll dig into it a little bit.”
Aalbers also said that he personally would not be “digging in”.
“There are people that want to ask those questions, we’ll lay out the information,” said Aalbers.
“There are a lot of other matters that need my pressing attention.”
As for the need for budget cuts to get rid of the deficit, Aalbers indicated it would be up to council as a whole to find the way forward.
“The council that has now been elected has to deal with that, and there are various ways and means,” said Aalbers.
“I don’t have all the answers today, I won’t have all the answers tomorrow, but we will come with some answers in the very near future to go forward with.”
He did say that cuts would need to happen, while committing to providing core services of water, sewer treatment, roadways, and protective services.
“By all means, don’t think I’m going to close arenas or close the library, but are we going to look for efficiencies? There is no question,” said Aalbers.
When reached for comment about the election results, Whiting said that he had appreciated the chance to run in the election. As for what he’ll be doing after leaving the City government, he indicated he not yet made a decision.
As for Ross, she said she would keep up with her volunteering in the community, and did not rule out another run for political office in the future, planning to keep an eye on how things develop in the next four years.
“I’m three times defeated, not discouraged,” said Ross.
“I’ll just work a little harder.”
The six council members who will be serving alongside Aalbers are returning councilor Ken Baker, along with Jonathan Torresan, Michael Diachuk, Glenn Fagnan, Aaron Buckingham, and Stephanie Brown Munro.