Rob Vagramov is the new mayor of Port Moody. The 26 year-old will also be one of the youngest mayors in Canada.
Vagramov’s unofficial margin of victory was 384 votes; he won with 52% of the votes cast for mayor.
Of 23,195 eligible voters in Port Moody, 38.07% cast ballots — the highest voter turnout in the Tri-Cities.
The campaign was essentially a divide between two opposing views of Port Moody’s direction to the future.
During the campaign, Clay advocated to stay the course he and council set during the previous two terms, steering Port Moody towards its projected population of 50,000 people by 2041 by emphasizing more density in areas surrounding the city’s two SkyTrain stations.
Vagramov, who was seeking the mayor’s chair after serving one term on council, said that kind of densification is too much too fast, threatening Port Moody’s small-town character and natural environment. He said the city needed to do more to acquire green space, particularly along the waterfront.
Voters’ dissatisfaction with the direction the city is headed also extended to their choices for council. Vagramov supporter Hunter Madsen, who was first elected to council in last year’s by-election to replace former councillor Rick Glumac, retained his seat with the most votes of any of the six elected councillors.
Two new faces on council, Amy Lubik and Steve Milani, also ran on platforms questioning the city’s growth plans and pace of development. They’ll join incumbents Diana Dilworth, Meghan Lahti and Zoe Royer who were all re-elected. One incumbent, Barbara Junker, failed to retain her seat.
Early in the campaign for mayor, Vagramov’s credibility as a serious contender seemed to suffer a blow when a four-year old video surfaced on YouTube and was widely circulated on social media channels showing him doing a “random act of kindness” by offering a sandwich to a man on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside if he’d shotgun a can of beer with him. Vagramov admitted the profanity-laden video that was viewed thousands of time “lacked empathy.”
Clay, meanwhile, stuck to his message that the city is growing responsibly. He pointed to recent successes attaining new purpose-built rental housing, as well as commitments from various developers to include affordable units in their projects. He promised more of the same. He called assertions by Vagramov that the city was on a path to becoming “another Metrotown” hyperbole.
“This ‘wall of towers’ in Moody Centre is stuff that’s in the 40-year planning window,” he said at a debate of the two mayoral candidates. “It doesn’t mean it’s in progress.”
Vagramaov said even as more housing is being built in Port Moody, much of it is out of reach to most families, and especially to young people as well as seniors looking to downsize. Soaring property values are also making it hard for established businesses to stay in the city.