Life-long Dundasian Arlene Vanderbeek will enter the race to replace retiring friend and colleague Russ Powers on Hamilton’s city council this fall.
Vanderbeek has played an active behind-the-scenes role for the past eight years as Powers’ executive assistant and as an assistant to previous Dundas councillor Art Samson, who won a 2004 by-election when Powers served as a Liberal Member of Parliament.
Vanderbeek also served two terms on Dundas town council – the final two terms before municipal amalgamation.
“I know how much we all value the quality of life we have here. It’s what keeps us here and what lures other people to come here,” she said. “This community means everything to me. I hope the people of Dundas will put their trust in me.”
Days after Powers announced he would not be running for re-election on October 27, Danya Scime remained the only registered candidate in the ward. Scime jumped into the race on January 20. Dundas resident Toby Yull announced the morning of Wednesday, July 2 she planned to register later in the day.
Vanderbeek said she planned to officially register before Dundas Cactus Festival in mid-August. In the meantime, she is still busy as Powers’ executive assistant until the end of this term. Vanderbeek has also been serving as chair of the Dundas Division of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
Scime was one of four candidates who challenged Powers in the 2010 election, and provided the closest competition with 1,761 votes to his 4,884.
Reached by email last Friday, Scime welcomed the idea of more candidates entering a wide-open race.
“I have heard some rumbling about a few other people throwing their hats in, and (I) do believe that based on Russ not running; makes for a more even playing field. We know statistically that Incumbents have the upper hand,” Scime stated.
“I am thrilled to be running and look forward to debating with other candidates on what our visions are for Dundas.”
In 2006, Julia Kollek mounted the biggest ever challenge to Powers, at least since amalgamation. Kollek picked up 2,404 ballots – or 30.95 per cent of the vote – to Powers’ 2,667 ballots – or 34.33 per cent of the vote. It was a difference of just 263 votes. That year, former Dundas town councillor Keith Sharp received 1,855 votes – 23 per cent of ballots cast in his second challenge.
Sharp finished second to Powers in 2000, followed by Sean Ernst. In 2003, David Longo was Powers’ only challenger and he picked up almost 29 per cent of the vote to the incumbent’s 71 per cent.
Longo and Ernst were among the field of seven candidates who ran in the 2004 by-election, after Powers was elected MP Art Samson won the by-election, topping Darlyne Mills by 1,432 votes.
Vanderbeek noted that even as a longstanding incumbent, Powers often faced strong challenges.
“Dundas is a very committed community. It’s an active community, full of people who care and get involved,” she said.
For Vanderbeek, moving on to something else with Powers’ departure at the end of the year just wasn’t on the table. She described seeking the Dundas council seat as a “natural transition.”
Vanderbeek said she remembers when the Valley Town didn’t have the viable community centre it does today.
“I watched that metamorphosis and participated in it. I want to continue to do that,” she said. “It’s who I am. It’s part of me. Dundas is as much a part of me as I am of it.”
She referred to relationships she has built over the last eight years with city councillors and city staff. She described her work with Powers over the last two terms of Hamilton city councillor as “a partnership” to maintain Dundas’ quality of life.
“I’ve been part of the commitment to nurture this town. I believe I have the abilities, I have the experience. I have a lifetime passion for Dundas,” Vanderbeek said.