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Chestermere gears up for council overhaul with byelection next week

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Chestermere residents are headed to the polls next week to potentially elect an entirely new council after the mayor and three councillors were fired by the province late last year for governing in an "improper, irregular and improvident manner."

Former Mayor Jeff Colvin and councillors Stephen Hanley, Mel Foat and Blaine Funk were removed by municipal affairs following 12 directives issued to council to follow, that the province says were not completed or followed.

All four are seeking to gain the trust of voters once again.

"Primarily, when we've been talking to residents door to door, they've really communicated that they want us to stay our course and complete our initial agenda," said mayoral candidate Jeff Colvin.

"What we've been focused on is really trying to listen to issues that our residents have heard, and trying to explain to them that, unfortunately, there's been some false statements that have been made by municipal affairs."

Last month, Alberta's Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver revealed that there were "significant gaps" in financial management by the city of Chestermere, with more than 10,000 line items at the subject of an inspection by Deloitte.

But Colvin alleges the province is conspiring against the community and members of council while colluding with RCMP.

"We identified that there were some questionable activities that were going on in Chestermere, and Municipal Affairs didn't like that," said Colvin of previous councils.

"And I don't understand that, because I think we can't wipe anything under the carpet. It's absolutely wrong."

Shannon Dean served as a councillor under Colvin. He is now one of four running for mayor, alongside Colvin.

"I think what it has reaffirmed is that people really just want to move forward," said Dean.

"They want a council and a mayor that's going to come in and make a tangible difference in their lives."

Dean says the community is looking for stability, and hopes the campaign is run fairly and respectfully by all candidates.

"I have not at all had any intention of getting into a mudslinging contest or into any sort of a conversation where it's going to be about those things," said Dean.

"When I stood on City Hall steps, in October of 2021, and I read that oath and I signed that piece of paper, I made a commitment to this community, that commitment never wavered, that commitment never changed."

Political scientist at Mount Royal University Lori Williams says residents have a big decision to make on June 24.

"Whatever happens with the race, there will still be questions," she said.

"If the ousted mayor wins that seat back then, there will continue to be questions about spending and other irregularities that occurred."
Williams adds that voter turnout is generally low in byelections.

"Is there going to be a whole lot of people voting because they're tired of the controversy?" said Williams.

"They just want a well-run municipality. They don't want the controversy. But there are also those who think that there's been some sort of injustice done here, and they aren't going to let that go."

Marshall Chalmers who was mayor previously to Colvin is also seeking the top job, along with another former councillor in Chris Steeves.

There are 23 people seeking one of five councillor positions, with the sixth currently filled by Ritesh Narayan.

Election day is June 24, with the polls closing at 8 p.m.

The City of Chestermere is suing Colvin and the three fired councillors for more than $650,000, the former mayor's campaign manager confirmed to CTV News on Tuesday.

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