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SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - Basil Stewart is Summerside’s new mayor – again.
Stewart eked out a win during Monday night’s tight mayoral race in Summerside. He took home 2,392 votes, compared to Nancy Beth Guptill’s 2,115 and Brent Gallant’s 1,733.
In an interview with the Journal Pioneer Tuesday afternoon, Stewart said his first steps will be to meet with the city’s new councillors, four of which are returning and four of which are new, to determine their priorities, what committees they would like to serve on, when they are available for a swearing-in ceremony and so on.
Stewart ran on three main election points, which included replacing the city’s aging downtown fire hall, which actually lost some of its roof during a wind storm this week, and to try to lower the city’s tax and electrical rates.
When pressed to explain how he was going to convince at least four councillors to support a reduction in the property tax rate or electrical rates, Stewart was non-committal. As mayor he can only vote on a motion if it is to break a tie, so to accomplish his election talking points he has to find support from at least four councillors.
“I think what’s important is that we do what the citizens want,” he said.
“Things are done as a council, and it will be done after a lot of discussion and debate, and we’ll see how it unfolds from there. But people pretty much know my stance on things.”
When asked what some of his other priorities might be, Stewart said those will have to wait and see until he’s had time to meet with city staff and be briefed.
“We’re not going to get the world turning the other way. It’s all about the common-sense approach.”
“I think what’s important is that we do what the citizens want. Things are done as a council, and it will be done after a lot of discussion, and debate and we’ll see how it unfolds from there. But people pretty much know my stance on things.”
The mood was jovial at the Stewart residence Monday night, after the final poll results were announced. A cheer went up from the small crowd of family, neighbours and friends who had gathered to support their candidate.
“I gotta celebrate with a Bakin’s coffee or a Pepsi,” quipped Stewart at the time.
He was promptly handed a celebratory soft drink.
But prior to that moment, things remained tense in the house, right up until the last poll.
Even as it started to look more and more like he would win, anyone who mentioned as much was quickly shushed, lest they jinx him.
Guptill took an early lead after polls closed at 7 p.m., but as the night stretched on, Stewart pulled away and maintained a small, but consistent, advantage that stayed true past the finish line.
It’s a position Stewart has been in before.
He has previously served 29 years as Summerside’s mayor. He was first elected in 1985 and was consistently re-elected until he was defeated by Bill Martin in 2014. Martin decided not to run again in this election and Stewart, reinvigorated after surviving a heart attack about a year ago, decided he wanted another chance to serve the community.
Long-time friend Gary Gaudet was on hand to celebrate. He was happy to hear Stewart was going to run again, he said.
“I told him I’d support him in any which way I could. I was very satisfied. He spent lots of years in politics and I support him 100 per cent. The race was a little bit touchy at first, but it’s coming around,” said Gaudet.
When the cheering calmed down, Stewart thanked his supporters and competitors and expressed his happiness that the grueling campaign was over and added that he was looking forward to getting to work.