Linda Vandendriessche is excited to get started as Ward 2 councillor for Norfolk County.
A ceremonial swearing-in was to be held at the start of the council-in-committee meeting on June 8 after Vandendriessche won the June 3 by-election.
“I’m elated,” said Vandendriessche. “The results made me very happy. I’m excited to get started and I want to hit the road running.”
Of the 1,812 ballots cast, Vandendriessche received 1,025 votes (56.57 per cent).
Also receiving votes were Bill Dendekker (338), Noel Haydt (200), David Van Hamme (128), Pamela Moore (106) and Russell Colebrook (10).
Voter turnout was 28.83 per cent.
“It was a long haul, I felt it was a long election,” said Vandendriessche, who was congratulated after the election by several Norfolk councillors, as well as area politicians from Haldimand and Tillsonburg.
“I have to thank a lot of people. I have to thank my family, and Kris Demeester who was my campaign manager. She was excellent.
“The county did an excellent job (Thursday night), the clerk, the deputy clerk and their assistants were very nice to everyone. So I would like to thank them as well.
“I’d like to also commend Roger Geysens for all his years of service and I will try to make him proud filling the seat for him in this by-election.”
For the first time, the Norfolk County Ward 2 municipal by-election was conducted exclusively through vote-by-mail as an alternative to in-person voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But campaigning during a lockdown proved to be difficult, said Vandendriessche.
“What made it really difficult was the fact that you really couldn’t communicate with people. You couldn’t really go door-to-door. I just didn’t want to upset anyone. I did talk to some of the other candidates as well and we all agreed it was very difficult. Not being able to have that one-on-one, that was hard for me. I’m a communicator and it’s really hard if you can’t strike a good conversation.”
It was also challenging not being able to a hold a traditional open debate, she said.
“We couldn’t have people in the room. We couldn’t rent a hall and do it the way we used to do things and get out and talk to people.”
Five of the six candidates attended a two-hour web-streamed candidates’ forum organized by the Delhi and District Chamber of Commerce in mid-May.
“It was fine, they did the best they could do and we all tried,” said Vandendriessche. “For myself, I hadn’t done a lot of Zoom meetings. A couple, but not many at all. I think we all felt it, we all felt ‘this (Zoom) is a little bit of a strange way of doing it.’ But I think it came across okay and people were satisfied with it. We did have our opportunities to make our opening and closing statements, so I think that made a difference. They did very well hosting it and we were pleased that someone did host it.”
Vandendriessche was active on social media throughout the campaign.
“I have to thank Kris Demeester and my family – everyone contributed – but Kris did a lot with the social media. She helped me keep it up and she was my distanced camera-person, so I was very lucky that way that she helped out. We tried to post every day, we tried to talk about things every day, and we did a couple of statements and my platform on social media.”
Several issues specific to Ward 2 were addressed during the campaign, including bridges and roads and keeping facilities.
“Common things, but still a little bit more specific to here. We don’t want to lose what we have.”
Taxes are always an issue, she said.
“What’s going to hit people is the fact that because of the high prices of homes and farms and everything else, the impact analysis will come back and then your houses and farms will be re-evaluated. So there’s a real concern of this massive tax hike, and once I’m able to have discussions on council, I have to make sure that is raised.
“Another issue that is widespread in the community is of course the water situation. Where are we? How much water do we have? People have concerns. You want development, and I agree, but you have to be concerned about how much water we have.”
Rural broadband is another issue that came up during the campaign.
“I’m just hoping it does expand more seriously out to the ‘rural-rural areas’ because even here (on the 13th Concession, less than two kilometres from Langton) we had difficulty getting on – and staying on – the Zoom (candidates) meeting. I’m hoping that all comes out.
“So there are some challenges and there will be some uphill battles, but we’ll get through them.
“I am here for the families, the children, the seniors as well. And of course our farmers – and they know that – the farmers know I have their backs.”
The day after the election, Vandendriessche was out picking up election signs, thanking in particular Cadman Power Equipment and Townsend Lumber and other business and family supporters.
“I really appreciate that as well, that was wonderful.”
The next municipal election is October 2022, but for now she said her focus is on the task at hand.
“I think for now I have to get in there, I have to do my job, I have to see how things are working out, but you don’t go this far without thinking about 2022.”