MAYOR INSTALLED; MAYOR REMOVED; MAYOR IN WAITING (?)
Anatomy of last fall’s municipal election in Gimli
Lynn Greenberg speaks at candidates forum at Sigurbjorg Stefansson Early School Oct. 4. Greenberg would emerge Gimli's 2018-2022 mayor. Seated, from left, are three of the four candidates elected as councillors: Cody Magnusson, Richard Petrowski and Peter Holfeuer.
An aggressive social media campaign may have catapulted now-Mayor Lynn Greenberg to Gimli’s top elected position.
Greenberg served a first term as mayor 2010-14. He was defeated by Randy Woroniuk in 2014, in a tightly-fought electoral battle, then returned four years later with his comfortable win in late-October last year, besting both incumbent Woroniuk and newcomer DJ Sigmundson.
The vote count was Greenberg, 1,365 (43.67 per cent of eligible votes cast); Sigmundson, 1,140 (36.47); and Woroniuk, 621 (19.86).
In a three-way contest for the mayoralty, it is always difficult to understand the dynamic, but something was certainly in play in the latest Gimli mayoral contest.
What needs to be asked: What did Woroniuk, the incumbent, fail to see in the mood of the electorate? In essence, what he did do wrong?
It could argued that Woroniuk’s undoing was due to an aggressive, consistent and relentless social media campaign for Greenberg that put the now-mayor in the driver’s seat. The Facebook page that led Greenberg’s digital campaign was critical of both Woroniuk and Sigmundson, the latter to a lesser extent.
The Greenberg Facebook campaign was largely hosted on the What’s Up Gimli page. There were sometimes brisk exchanges on WUG but the preponderant position was one of support for Greenberg, and frequent criticism of Woroniuk.
The incumbent mayor, by comparison, had virtually no digital footprint. Not surprising because he regularly criticized social media’s lack of control and rigour.
Whether the final result can be wholly attributed to the consistent Facebook messaging in Greenberg’s favour is an open question. If nothing else, it demonstrates that consistent messaging on social media can play a role in elections. That appears to have been lost on Woroniuk whose frequent criticisms of comments posted on Meanwhile in Gimli (RM), precursor to WUG, likely did not endear him to converts to the medium. On numerous occasions, Woroniuk reacted viscerally to criticisms of staff or innuendo about municipal employees, criticisms that were often fodder for MiG (RM) then WUG posters.
There is little doubt that some posts went over the top – on both sides of whatever the current imbroglio may have been — though there were certainly many over the course of Woroniuk’s four-year term. The fact that Woroniuk explicitly eschewed social media in general and WUG in particular cannot be avoided in assessing his third-place finish at the polls.
DJ Sigmundson makes a presentation to Gimli council November 2017.
Sigmundson’s second-place showing was also affected by WUG posts, some of which suggested he was in a conflict because he is chief administrative officer of the RM of St. Clements. A Gimli resident, Sigmundson was fully entitled to run for election in his community. Still, the suggestion that this was not so arose time and again, including during a pre-election candidates’ forum Oct. 4.
But the questions about Sigmundson-the-CAO-from-elsewhere may have lingered in the minds of electors when they cast their votes Oct. 24 or before during an Oct. 13 advance.
Given the slim 225-vote margin Greenberg enjoyed over Sigmundson, it is not outside the bounds of possibility that he may take another stab at the mayoralty in 2022.