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'These things just don’t happen': Nuttall becomes next Barrie mayor

'We put a vision before the people of Barrie that said we know that this city can move forward,' mayor-elect tells campaigners
Alex Nuttall shakes hands after winning the Barrie mayor's race on Monday night.

That collective roar of voices from Barrie’s lakeshore at 9:30 p.m. Monday was Alex Nuttall winning his first race for Barrie mayor.

Nuttall was elected mayor by outdistancing his opponents, defeating Barry Ward by 777 votes along with five other candidates — Gerry Marshall, Mike McCann, Andrew Gordon, Weldon Hachey, and Rob Haverson.

Nuttall thanked his campaign team for the victory, his 13,401 votes to 12,624 for Ward, at Pie Wood Fired Pizza Joint.

“These things just don’t happen. They take work and effort and time. All the hours you folks spent saying why our vision for the city mattered,” Nuttall said of his campaigners, before thanking outgoing Mayor Jeff Lehman and Ward.

“It’s no small thing to put your name forward for public office.”

Ward, 64, has been Barrie’s Ward 4 councillor for the past 22 years, and the city’s deputy mayor for the last four years.

Nuttall never wavered from his platform, his key talking points, during the election campaign.

Freezing property taxes, fixing city roads, jobs for Barrie, housing people can afford, a downtown to be proud of, and a city people feel safe in were its planks.

“We put a vision before the people of Barrie that said we know that this city can move forward, but we know we need to make sure that we fix our roads, that we take care of the assets that we have,” he said. “That as we are navigating this very difficult time, in terms of economic turmoil, high inflation, high interest rates, that now isn’t the time to keep running with high tax increases.”

Nuttall promised to rein in spending and hold the line on municipal taxes to keep more money in Barrie residents’ wallets, keep this city off ‘worst roads’ lists and create safer streets for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, and create more employment opportunities for Barrie residents, including the designation of additional employment land.

He also said he would increase the housing supply in Barrie, in part by providing incentives for affordable housing, clean up downtown Barrie, including an end to dropping off former prisoners there, and increase police resources to keep city streets safe.

“We put forth a vision that said as we’re growing, in terms of residential growth, we need to make sure we have jobs for folks that live in Barrie, and jobs for folks that are moving to Barrie,” Nuttall said.

“We said that in our downtown, we can definitely help people from here that need help, but we also need to help those folks who are left on the side of the road in a city they didn’t know, when they come out of Penetanguishene (super jail),” he said. “We need to help those folks get home and we need to help those folks get transitional services, not to be left to fend for themselves or being re-institutionalized.

“We need to make sure that we have a properly funded police department here in the city of Barrie,” Nuttall added.

And he promised that the new council would work together to solve Barrie’s problems and move the city forward.

“That’s what we’re going to work on as council,” Nuttall said. “The reality is the mayor has one vote but I know over the next number of years, we’ll be able to accomplish great things for the city. We’ll be able to make sure that we leave this city in an even better position than we’ve inherited it in and I know this incredible team that’s been elected tonight on behalf of the citizens of Barrie.

“Here’s one thing I know, that the citizens are never wrong,” he said of Monday’s vote. “They’ve put together a team that will work together … that will bring a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences to the table. And I know … that we’re going to work incredibly hard on your behalf.”

Nuttall, 37, was born in Liverpool, England and came to Barrie in 1989. He served as Ward 10 (south Barrie) councillor from 2006 to 2014 and then was Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte’s Member of Parliament (MP) from 2015 until 2019. In both cases, he stepped away from these positions. Outgoing Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman was 35 when first elected to the big chair in 2010.

Nuttall said he would run for mayor on Feb. 24, 2022, the same day Lehman announced he was running for MPP in the June 2 provincial election, and would not seek a fourth term as Barrie mayor.

Nuttall made it official on May 2, when nominations opened, by filing his papers at 8:55 a.m. at Barrie City Hall.

Lehman, 46, was first elected to city council in 2006 and served four years as the Ward 2 councillor. He ran for mayor in 2010, outdistancing former Barrie MPP Joe Tascona, former mayor Rob Hamilton and incumbent mayor Dave Aspden. Lehman easily won re-election in 2014 and 2018, taking more than 90 per cent of the vote both times.

In 2018, the last city election, Lehman took 90.97 per cent of the votes for mayor, or 24,854. Ram Faerber took 9.03 per cent or 2,467 votes.

There were 92,156 eligible voters in Barrie four years ago and voter turnout was 29.65 per cent.

Barrie had approximately 103,000 eligible voters this year. Voter turnout was 30.45 per cent.