'The colour doesn't matter': N.B. municipalities elect more women, first Black mayor in historic election
FREDERICTON -- Kassim Doumbia says he always wanted to get involved and be active in his community. He moved to Shippagan 14 years ago, and has spent the last nine years on the town’s council.
Tuesday night, Doumbia became New Brunswick’s first Black mayor. He calls it a dream.
“That means the citizens of the municipality see me as one of them,” he said in an interview with CTV Atlantic. “The colour doesn’t matter, they see the person. They see what I can bring to the community, they see what I can bring to the table. They see my involvement in the community…wow. It’s just, a lot of things happening in my mind right now.”
His election was one of many historic changes across New Brunswick's local governments.
For the first time, three of the largest cities all elected women as mayors at the same time.
Long-time councillor Donna Reardon was elected in Saint John – and the city of Moncton re-elected Dawn Arnold.
For Fredericton, it was the first time the city ever elected a female mayor.
“I feel really humbled that people have put their faith and trust in me,” said Fredericton’s mayor-elect, Kate Rogers. “I’m glad that everybody realizes that it has been a long time coming and that it’s something that we shouldn’t take for granted.”
The women say they’re proud – and not deterred – by the historic headline.
“I think it’s great,” said Reardon. “It’s unfortunate it’s a headline, I mean it should be second nature to us really, you know. But it is making quite a little splash…I don’t know, looking back historically, if it’s that women were not elected to these positions or if women didn’t put their names in for these positions. Maybe we’re just seeing more women step up to that plate.”
According to the provincial government, 80 more women ran for council positions this election than last time.
“Women in leadership is powerful,” said Dawn Arnold – who is Moncton’s first female mayor, elected in 2016. “It’s important, our voices are important. We need this diversity around the table but we need women in leadership roles. I think it’s a great indication for the future success of our province.”
The Village of Grand-Anse elected an all-female council and the Village of Doaktown elected its first Indigenous councillor.
Elections New Brunswick says results will remain unofficial until formally declared, likely in a couple days.
The turnout is also not final. As of Wednesday, 30.35 per cent was recorded as the voter turnout – but that includes those in local service districts who were not voting for mayors or councils.
Elections New Brunswick says it will break out the data for municipal races.
Rogers hopes someday, these results won’t be so unique.
“I look forward to the day when it’s not special when a woman wins. But you know, I’ll take the specialness for today.”
A previous version of this story inferred Saint John elected its first female mayor in this election.
Elsie Wayne was elected as Saint John's first female mayor in 1983. The article has been updated to reflect this.