Veteran councillor Fawcett takes Brandon mayor’s chair

BRANDON — Three-term city councillor Jeff Fawcett is poised to be Brandon’s next mayor.

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BRANDON — Three-term city councillor Jeff Fawcett is poised to be Brandon’s next mayor.

Results were still being tabulated late Wednesday, but Fawcett held a heavy lead over challenger Elliott Oleson — 2,520 votes to 980 — at 10:45 p.m.

At the Riverbank Discovery Centre, approximately 30 people, including colleagues Coun. Shaun Cameron (Ward 4) and Coun. Glen Parker (Riverview), were on hand to cheer Fawcett on.

With a commanding lead at press time, three-term city councillor Jeff Fawcett is poised to be Brandon’s next mayor. (Tim Smith / The Brandon Sun)

“It’s really exciting,” Fawcett said. “I’ve got family with me and a lot of people that helped me out, and I really look forward to working with the next council.”

The mayor-elect attributed his victory to an early start, working hard to meet residents, and knocking on as many doors as possible. His lengthy tenure on city council didn’t hurt, either.

He praised the campaign work of his opponent, Oleson.

“We got on really well,” Fawcett said. “He had some strong points and I was very glad that we were in the race together.

“Elliott and I were in university together years ago, and I always enjoyed having discussions with him. I think we had a lot of really good councillors running in the race, too.”

The first thing he plans to tackle as mayor will likely be homelessness and shelter space, Fawcett said.

In a phone interview, Oleson graciously accepted defeat.

“What can I say?” Oleson said. “My objective was never really to win — it was to start a conversation and put forward some ideas well and forcefully. I think I accomplished that.”

Despite not running a traditional campaign, Oleson said the results were closer than he expected. His next goal: to fill the next vacancy on the Brandon Police Board, when it becomes available.

For a long period, it seemed as if Fawcett’s path to the mayor’s chair was going to be uncontested.

After mayor Rick Chrest announced his intention to retire from politics in February, Fawcett kicked off the race to replace him in April.

Fawcett, the owner of D&B Sprinklers, had high praise for Chrest’s leadership style and said he would seek to govern in a similar manner, if elected.

Jeff Fawcett (right) with outgoing mayor Rick Chrest, who announced his intention to retire in February, (Tim Smith / The Brandon Sun)

Brandon had to wait until the last day in the nomination period to find out its mayor wouldn’t be acclaimed for the second consecutive election.

In comparison to the political veteran, Oleson stood out as a candidate who was emphatically apart from the establishment.

Oleson came out strongly against city council’s practice of informal meetings and the $30 million it wants to borrow to build new wastewater infrastructure in southwest Brandon. He advocated for crumbling infrastructure and abandoned properties to be dealt with, and proposed upward rather than outward growth for the city.

By contrast to Fawcett’s campaign, which featured purpose-made social media accounts to promote his candidacy as well as election signs, Oleson didn’t engage traditional campaign advertising. However, both appeared at events such as a social issues forum, two mayoral debates, and a climate change open house.

One area of common ground was on photo radar.

Earlier this year, city council and the Brandon Police Board discussed the potential of asking the province for permission to install the technology as a traffic-calming measure. The mayoral candidates were skeptical of the idea, worrying it would be seen as a cash grab.

Fawcett and the city councillors are to be sworn in sometime next week.

— Brandon Sun

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