Only two handfuls of votes separated two Chemainus men in Saturday’s election for Mayor of North Cowichan.
Al Siebring edged out incumbent Jon Lefebure by the narrowest of margins, 3,017-3,007. Joyce Behnsen, the other person in the race, tallied 1,874 votes.
Siebring joked Sunday he’s now known as “Landslide Al.”
While both men clearly were at odds on some of the issues during the campaign, both declared the utmost of respect for each other in the final analysis.
“I think Al will make a great mayor,” Lefebure said.
“He also has a good council and I’m sure they will all step up to the job.”
Lefebure added he will step back from politics and work on building projects with his brother.
“Building is the other side of my life and I now intend to work hard at that.”
“Sixteen out of 19 years he’s given a lot of his time and dedication,” Siebring said of Lefebure. “The community owes him a big debt of thanks.”
This is not the first time the mayor’s race in North Cowichan has been a nailbiter. Two elections ago, Lefebure won by just 16 votes over Tom Walker.
Recounts are typical when the results are so close, but the electronic voting system has eliminated human counting errors.
“My first thought was there’s going to be a recount and Jon would have been entitled to that,” said Siebring.
But Lefebure congratulated Siebring on the result, an indication no recount was forthcoming.
Siebring was first elected to council in 2008. He was the first to declare his bid for mayor back in July.
“When I declared in July, I was under the impression Jon wasn’t going to run,” Siebring indicated. “I thought, ‘let’s put it out there and see what happens.’”
He was going to retire a year ago, but decided to give it another shot and a friend put the election in perspective for Siebring. He was either going to make a great mayor if he won or a great grandfather if he lost.
The vote was extremely tight across all the polling stations. Siebring topped the polls in Chemainus, Crofton and the Municipal Hall while Lefebure had the higher vote count in advance polling and at Maple Bay, Mount Prevost and Quamichan.
Chemainus and Crofton traditionally play a huge role in the outcome of North Cowichan elections and that was definitely the case again. Siebring’s combined advantage from the two sites was 210 votes.
“I didn’t overpromise,” Siebring said of his campaign. “I’d like to move away from the foregone conclusion that, no matter what, taxes have to rise.”
That’s not to say taxes won’t rise, he added, but the extent of the rate increases needs to be kept in check.
Siebring is looking forward to getting down to work and planned to meet with CEO Ted Swabey immediately to develop strategies for the new council.
“The challenge now as a mayor, particularly with the council I have, is to govern for everybody,” he said.
Siebring was grateful to voters for the support and the opportunity to lead the municipality.
“I am humbled by the confidence you have shown in me, and I will endeavour to do my very best to lead a cohesive and unified council that will focus on goals and outcomes, not political rivalries,” he indicated.
“Thanks to you, the voters. You engaged us, you listened to our endless campaign pitches, you put up with our signs and most importantly, you educated each of us – me included – on what’s important to you and what we should be focusing on in the next four years.”
The swearing-in of the mayor and new council will take place on Nov. 7.
– with a file from Robert Barron, Cowichan Valley Citizen