Richard Stewart will occupy the Coquitlam mayor’s chair for another four years.
The 59-year-old incumbent — who said this would be his last election — defeated challenger Adel Gamar during Saturday night's municipal election, taking 16,546 votes (69.56%) to Gamar’s 6,373 (26.93%) — a margin of more than 10,100 votes. A third mayoral candidate, Mark Mahovlich, received 830 votes.
“I’m really gratified,” Stewart told The Tri-City News shortly after the ballots were tallied. “We put forward a positive campaign and ran on the accomplishments we have had so far and the work that is left to be done. I really appreciate that the voters have given us that affirmation and mandate.”
Voters also affirmed their support for all the incumbents who ran: Coun. Craig Hodge topped the polls with 14,380 votes, followed by councillors Chris Wilson, Teri Towner, Bonita Zarrillo, Brent Asmundson and Dennis Marsden. Newcomers Trish Mandewo took the seventh spot, while Steve Kim hung on to the eighth and final seat by nine votes over nearest challenger Robert Mazzarolo (see sidebar).
Turnout was up slightly over the 2014 campaign. While Coquitlam has 91,953 eligible voters, only 23,967 cast a ballot, or 26.06%, higher than the 26.01% seen four years ago.
Gamar was unavailable to speak with The Tri-City News before Tuesday's print deadline but thanked his supporters on Twitter Sunday afternoon. He congratulated Stewart on his victory and said residents need to come together now that the campaign is over.
"I urge all residents who supported me to join me in not just congratulating [Stewart], but offering our mayor our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together and bridge our differences," he wrote. "Together, we can help ensure that our city works for and serves all its people."
Saturday's election results shook up several councils across the region, including Burnaby and Port Moody, where incumbent mayors lost their seats. Given that many Lower Mainland mayors already decided not to run for re-election this term, Stewart said the makeup of the Metro Vancouver board of directors and the TransLink Mayors Council will be significantly altered.
He added that he has resisted taking on a bigger role at Metro but that the region is facing some major decisions in the next four years around transit and infrastructure.
"These aren't decisions to be taken flippantly," he said. "The regional stuff is vitally important."
Stewart, who was first elected to council in 2005 before winning the mayor's chair in 2008, ran on a campaign highlighting his effort to increase housing stock in the city. But he said more work is needed and council will have to look to the federal and provincial governments, which have taken a renewed interest in the housing file, for support in creating more subsidized units.
"By this time in two years, three years, I suspect we will see a completely different market on the housing side," he said during the campaign. "I hope we will be able to look back with satisfaction at what Coquitlam's role has been."