Russ Wyatt took back his former council seat in Transcona in Winnipeg’s civic election Wednesday night, ousting one-term rival Shawn Nason.
Wyatt will be joined on city council by Shawn Dobson — another former councillor who made a return in Wednesday’s election — as well as 12 incumbents and one rookie councillor.
Nason was the only incumbent defeated in a Winnipeg council race on Wednesday.
Wyatt said it is humbling to be back representing the people of Transcona again.
“To be able to serve and give back is a huge honour,” he said. “It’s a deeply personal thing to give back and to help people and make their lives better in little ways even.”
Wyatt, 52, ran again this year for a seat he held from 2002 until 2018, serving under former mayors Glen Murray, Sam Katz and Brian Bowman.
He took a leave from his post months before the 2018 election to seek addictions help. After he got out of addictions recovery in 2018, he came out as bisexual. Wyatt, who now identifies as gay, said he was using substances to cope with with depression, which he associated with living a closeted life.
WATCH | Wyatt says return to city council ‘very humbling’:
To those who remain concerned by that stayed charge, Wyatt said he “was looking forward to my day in court.”
“I never got my day in court because the Crown decided to drop the charge,” he said.
“There are some folks out there who believe no matter what, when somebody is charged with something they are automatically guilty,” said Wyatt.
“I don’t think I’ll be able maybe to ever convince those folks, but I will do my job as a councillor as I always have … working hard.”
Asked about his past, Wyatt said he is writing a book with the help of a ghost writer to help people “suffering in silence.”
“I want folks to know that you can go through a storm in life and go through trials and tribulations, but … you can come out of the storm,” he said. “I want to write a book that will give folks hope.”
A dozen incumbents have been re-elected to Winnipeg council, including Vivian Santos (Point Douglas), John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre).
Janice Lukes was also re-elected in Waverley West, Jason Schreyer in Elmwood-East Kildonan, Matt Allard in St. Boniface, Sherry Rollins in Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry and Jeff Browaty in North Kildonan.
Two incumbent city councillors were acclaimed prior to Wednesday. Coun. Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) and Coun. Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan) scored early victories when no candidates stepped forward to challenge them in their wards.
Dobson returns with St. James win
Dobson took the council seat in St. James, which he lost in 2018 to Scott Gillingham.
Gillingham was elected mayor on Wednesday night, in a tight race that saw him beat out Murray, who was making an attempt to return as Winnipeg’s mayor.
Dobson, who previously served on council for four years, faced off against Gillingham that year when ward boundaries were redrawn and Dobson’s St. Charles ward was dissolved.
Dobson thanked his four rivals in the St. James race for their dedication to making the community a better place.
“I feel ecstatic,” Dobson said. “For that many people to step forward and support me means that they believe in me. It could be from my past being a councillor before and I did a good job.”
He said he has lived and worked, including as a carpenter, in the ward most of his life.
He described his approach to politics as “common sense” and said he thinks he’ll be able to help the city balance the budget.
The lone new face to city council, Duncan, took out his next closet rival, former CJOB radio personality Hal Anderson, by about 2,600 votes.
Evan Duncan was the lone rookie elected Wednesday night, winning the council race in Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood. That seat was left open after Coun. Kevin Klein entered the mayoral race.
Duncan, 39, who has worked as a juvenile counsellor with Manitoba Justice, said his desire to be “a strong representative in the community” drove him to run in Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood. His win was a result of connecting with people in the community, he said.
“I had 30-plus people behind me; we knocked on 8,000 doors,” said Duncan. “We connected with everyone in every corner of this ward. I couldn’t be happier to represent it.”
This was the second time the father of three ran for city council. He ran and lost to Marty Morantz in a tight race in 2014.