May 20th, 2024

Medicine Hat incumbent mayor loses to newcomer


From virtual unknown to the mayor’s office in three months, Linnsie Clark stormed to a resounding victory in Monday’s election, beating incumbent Ted Clugston to become the city’s first female mayor.
The 40-year-old lawyer on an unpaid leave of absence from the city solicitor’s office, quickly became the “change” candidate, critiquing City Hall’s decision making processes, calling for greater cost analysis of city and private-sector projects, and support for programs to bolster the community and quality of life.
She collected about 13,150, or two-thirds of the nearly 19,800 votes cast on Monday in her first poltical campaign. That outpaced Clugston, who earned 4,639 in his bid for a third term.
After being bag-piped in to a reception at the Paradise Valley Golf Course, Clark was introduced by former mayor Ted Grimm who called the 40-year-old a “rising force in politics” with a moral compass, and someone who young girls could look up to as “cool.”
Clark disputed the last claim, but thanked a group of supporters and all Hatters “for the tremendous amount of support we’ve seen,” she said.
“I’m excited and thankful and getting ready to get to work,” she told Southern Alberta Newspapers, citing council results that showed voters only returned two of a potential four incumbents. 
“It’s a great opportunity for a diverse council to get to work on some of my visions for the city.”
Of the campaign: “There was a timing element (to the win), and with 32 (candidates) running, it’s pretty obvious people are looking for a change.”
Alan Rose finished third with 1,562 votes.
Clugston addressed his supporters at the downtown restaurant, The Mezz, saying “truth is the first causality of war and politics” and reflecting on the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. It describes coming to two diverging paths in a wood.
“One path is re-election for four more years, and another in that I get my life back,” he said, thanking a long list of supporters and campaign workers. “I’m very surprised by our reach in this election, but it’s clear the voters had something else in mind.”
Clugston first joined council as an alderman in 2010, and then earned just more than 50 per cent of the votes in the 2013 mayoral race to succeed Norm Boucher.
He copied that margin in the 2017 race, far outpacing runner-up John Hamill.
Clark announced her campaign in mid-July launching into heavy criticism about the process of contracting out Invest Medicine Hat office and economic development activities. Eventually a council-commissioned third-party reports called for by Clugston. 
Both called for industrial development, adherence to a workforce development plan, but differed on Invest Medicine Hat, a looming decision on conglomerating new recreation facilities, and City Hall’s interaction with the public.
Clugston promoted a recent package of cuts to help balance the budget without reserve spending or tax increases, as well as his position to “seek COVID calm” by not supporting a local mask bylaw. Clark called for better prioritization and public input, and said council should have taken a leading position on the pandemic.
Alan Rose, the first to register a campaign this year, had continued with his criticism of City Hall “pet projects” and calls for fiscal discipline at head of the Medicine Hat Ratepayers Association.
On Monday he said voters may have lumped him in to a so-called “old boys club” at city hall, but he felt he was the stronger candidate for “change.” 
“I spent three years working to get all this (information about city hall) out there,” said Rose, the oldest person in the race, on Monday from his campaign party at the Cliff Restaurant.
“(Clark) didn’t take a hard position on anything … but maybe that’s the way to do it. I just don’t speak like a politician.”
Tony Leahy, 35, campaigned strongly on the city taking a stronger lead on mental health, suicide and addictions treatment, which he called crises.
He plans to continue that work and advocating in the community despite the result.
“It’s been a great experience and congratulations to Linnsie as our first female mayor,” he said. “She’s an inspiration for everyone, including my own daughter, and I wish her all the best.”
Michael Starner, a labourer in his 20s, placed fifth after campaigning on improving opportunities for young people. 
He said on social media Monday that he enjoyed the experience, and may run for council position in the future.

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