Former White Rock councillor Louise Hutchinson wasn’t surprised citizens voted her back into her old job last month.
Support for the notion was positive throughout her campaign, both from those who knew her and those who didn’t, said the longtime resident who was first elected in 1986 and, after a four-year hiatus, served a third term in 1994.
The surprise came around 9 p.m. Nov. 19, when voting results revealed she had won the second-highest support amongst the 13 councillor candidates.
“I always thought I might squeeze into number six,” Hutchinson said. “But I never, ever would’ve expected that I would become number two.”
Hutchinson received 2,275 votes – just 252 fewer than front-runner Grant Meyer, who was one of four incumbents in the race. She topped incumbents Mary-Wade Anderson, Helen Fathers and Alan Campbell, who were also voted back in, and finished 354 votes ahead of newcomer Larry Robinson.
Despite her history on council – she served as a school trustee after her second council term – Hutchinson, 70, said she does feel like the new kid on the block. When she left in 1996 to work full time as a special-education assistant in the Surrey School District, she never fathomed a return to politics.
“I sort of view council as jury duty – that everybody should try it,” she said. “I thought I had done my jury stint. I ended on a positive note, I knew I was an effective councillor.”
Hutchinson was inspired to run, in part, after repeatedly hearing “White Rock stalwarts” in favour of the city rejoining Surrey, and by an apparent lack of community involvement in the city.
“There were more things happening to the city, but not with the city and by the city.”
Her decision to attempt a comeback came together in fairly short order. She and husband Don returned from a vacation in Crete on Oct. 10. Following an Oct. 12 public forum on finances and the history of the city, she woke Oct. 13 with a campaign speech. The next day – the deadline for nomination papers – Hutchinson called former city councillor Vin Coyne to ask if he thought she was “out of my mind” to consider running.
“Before I finished, he said, ‘Go for it. The people need experienced people on council.’
“The more I got into it, the more I thought, ‘I really want to.’ And things came really easy. It really seemed like it was the right thing.”
Hutchinson believes part of her success came from having the support of two mayoral candidates, former councillor Lynne Sinclair and eventual victor Wayne Baldwin, as well as that of Robinson. All three endorsed her to people they spoke to, she said.
At the same time, she was careful not to publicly back any of the mayoral candidates, knowing she would need the votes of all their supporters in order to win herself.
She remains mum on who got her vote.
“Voting is a private thing,” she said. “I knew I could work with whoever got on.”
Hutchinson counts creation of the promenade, and votes that brought The Boathouse restaurant to Marine Drive, Pacific Terrace to the town centre and the Belair to Oxford Street, as among her successes from past terms. Looking ahead, she wants to spruce up the waterfront, possibly with the addition of summertime vendors that would make it more “beachy” by offering paddle-board, chair and other rentals.
Hutchinson said she’d also like to see more pride in city hall, and more effort taken to show appreciation for a job well done.
She agreed there is a sense that the past council was dysfunctional.
“Catherine (Ferguson) was the mayor and she was certainly the figure-front and out there. But council seemed to be operating almost without her,” she said. “I had a sense that there was a mayor and there was an unofficial leader, and the unofficial leader had more sway than the mayor.
“There was something going on but I could not put my finger on it.”
The biggest challenge for the new council lies in restoring citizens’ faith that they will be listened to, she said.
Hutchinson and the rest of council were to be sworn in Monday evening, after Peace Arch News’ press deadline.