Yellowknife has a new mayor after a stunning victory by Rebecca Alty who beat her closest challenger, Adrian Bell, last night by more than 700 votes.
At an election party, Alty gave Yellowknifer her first interview as mayor.
While campaigning door-to-door, Alty heard Yellowknifers’ concerns about cost of living, the downtown and the pool, she said.
Alty said she was eager to hear the final council result and dig into the coming budget.
Alty’s election party erupted in cheers as Adrian Bell conceded the election for mayor, congratulating Alty in a phone call.
Bell had left his election results gathering downtown at Twist and Shout after calling Alty to offer his congratulations, after the six-week election race.
“It’s exciting, I’m just trying to absorb it all,” a jubilant Alty told media. “It’s about somebody who is going to work well with bringing all the partners to the table … we have big challenges coming up.
Coun. Niels Konge was ecstatic at Alty’s win.
Official results from the city have Alty winning with 2,938 votes. Adrian Bell ended up with 2,210 votes. Some 5,343 votes were cast for mayor.
Bar owner Bob Stewart received 102 votes, while motorcycle riding instructor Jerald Sibbeston had 93 votes.
Alty was one of four female mayors elected last night across the NWT, including Natasha Kulikowski in Inuvik, Lynn Napier-Buckley in Fort Smith and Kandis Jameson in Hay River, who was acclaimed.
Alty, 35, has two terms on city council. She took leave from her job on the senior management team of Diavik Diamond Mine where she is manager of communities and external relations. She will be the city’s second female mayor, after Pat McMahon who was in office from 1988 to 1994.
Alty took a call from Yellowknifer shortly before 9 p.m., and was pleasantly surprised when told by a reporter of her early lead in the returns.
Alty told Yellowknifer in an earlier interview she considered the mayor’s job to involve encouraging teamwork and collaboration. Alty positioned herself as the candidate that will bring disparate groups together to hash out problems and come up with answers.
She committed to work closely with Indigenous, territorial and federal governments and non-profits. She also planned to assemble an economic advisory council that would provide policy advice to city council.
“My leadership style is very much about listening to people, figuring out what the problem is, figuring out what success looks like and then finding those solutions,” she said.
Watch scenes from Alty’s election night celebrations
Alty was born and raised in Yellowknife. After graduating from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Communication Studies, she returned to Yellowknife and worked for the GNWT, followed by the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation and then AVENS seniors community.
Bell, 43, has spent two terms on city council, nearly three as deputy mayor. In an earlier interview with Yellowknifer, Bell forecasted tough economic times for the Northwest Territories, but said he is the candidate to ensure Yellowknife weathers the storm. One idea is to encourage privately-run “innovation centres” – co-working spaces in which users share offices, tools and ideas.
“I’m tired. It’s been a long six weeks. I congratulate Rebecca Alty,” said Bell, after he had called Alty. “It’s time to get some sleep and re-evaluate … and figure out what I’m going to do.”
At Bell’s election gathering at Twist, the candidate was quiet and his eyes were fixed to his phone as a live broadcast from Cabin Radio aired the results across the somewhat sombre bar.
MLA and former city councillor Cory Vanthuyne appeared as a server handed out plates of nachos, courtesy of Bell.
Bell is also in favour of transforming of Aurora College into a polytechnic university headquartered in Yellowknife, and boosting tourism through supporting arts and culture festivals and opening a proper visitors’ centre.
With the diamond mines set to wind down over the next decade and a half, Yellowknife will need to boost other sectors of the economy in order to survive and thrive, he said.
Born in Smithers, B.C., Bell moved north with his family in 1979, first to Iqaluit and then to Yellowknife three years later. In 1997 he embarked on a career in small business, purchasing a downtown coffee shop, Javaroma Gourmet Coffee & Tea Ltd. Selling his business interests in 2009, he then attended the University of British Columbia where he completed a Bachelor’s Degree in History, stated his city biography.
Before returning to Yellowknife in 2011, Bell obtained his real estate license and is now the owner of Century 21 Prospect Realty.
Bell’s appreciation for municipal politics grew during his time on the Downtown Enhancement Committee and Smart Growth Development Committee between 2006 and 2009. Through his involvement with various civic-minded volunteer groups like the Long John Jamboree Society, he enjoys working with others to improve the quality of life for all Yellowknifers.
Bell lives in the Niven Lake area with his partner, Allison.
Outgoing mayor Mark Heyck was elected as Yellowknife’s 14th mayor in the fall of 2012 and was re-elected in 2015. He was first elected to city council in 2003, and served as deputy mayor from 2006 to 2012. In February, he announced he would not seek re-election .