By Steve Hubrecht

The long-vacant seat on Invermere council is now filled. According to preliminary results in a by-election local voters have elected longtime resident and former Columbia Valley abattoir manager, Grant Kelly, to the role.

Voting day was on March 4, and once sworn in, Kelly, who is also known in the community as the former owner of Grant’s Foods, and through his volunteers efforts with the Columbia Valley Rockies and minor hockey, will take the council seat that has been open for four months, after councillor-elect, Mark Topliff, stepped down for personal reasons in the fall of 2022. 

Turnout for the by-election was high, with 507 votes cast. That’s an eye-catching total, given that there was only one councillor position to be filled. The last time Invermere electors headed to the polls back in 2018, voter turnout was 1,062 to elected candidates to five different roles — one mayor and four councillors. The municipal election prior to that, in 2014, with four positions to be filled, saw voter turnout of 760. 

Not only was turnout high this time, but the margin of victory was tight: Kelly was the voters’ top choice with 140 votes, only narrowly ahead of Stephanie Stevens (who garnered 128 votes), with David Goldsmith (107 votes) and Grey Bradatsch (100 votes) not all that far behind, and with Juanita Violini (32 votes) coming in fifth. By percentage, Kelly earned 27.5 per cent of the vote, Stevens 25 per cent, Goldsmith 21 per cent, Bradatsch 20 per cent and Violini six per cent.

“I was very excited. I’m looking forward to working the council and the mayor,” Kelly told the Pioneer. He and fellow new councillor, Theresa Wood (who was acclaimed to her position during last October’s municipal election), will later this week be attending a conference in Kimberley for fresh municipal politicians.

Kelly thanked those that voted for him and thanked the other four candidates for a good electoral race, saying collectively they seemed to have re-sparked an interest in local politics, picking up from an October municipal election that didn’t actually see a vote, as a lack of candidates in Invermere meant everybody was acclaimed to their roles.

Invermere mayor Al Miller was pleased with the voter turnout, saying “it was pretty good for a by-election. I feel good about it. It’s a reasonable representation, and we ought to be happy about that.” Miller added he suspected a decent number of electors would head to the polls. “With that many candidates, I thought they would be pushing to get the vote out, and quality of the candidates helped too,” he said, adding those factors also led him to surmise that it was going to be a close race.

“The best part is that we now have a proper number of council members again. There will good debates, and we no longer need to worry about tie votes (there have been a few votes at Invermere council in the past few months that have ended deadlocked at two-two),” continued Miller. 

Official results of the by-election were set to be confirmed earlier this week, just after the Pioneer went to press. Kelly will be sworn in as councillor during the upcoming Tuesday, Mar. 14 council meeting.