Political newcomer Mary Fragedakis ushered in a change that residents of Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth) haven't seen in nearly two decades in a surprise victory.
Ms. Fragedakis garnered 41.8 per cent of the vote, beating out fellow frontrunners Jane Pitfield (27.9 per cent) and Jennifer Wood (24 per cent). This is Ms. Fragedakis's first run at political office. She describes herself as a community activist, small business owner and cofounder of the Broadview Community Youth Group, an organization that runs educational programs for youth in East York.
Ms. Fragedakis will replace longtime councillor Case Ootes, who announced his decision not to seek re-election earlier this year. Mr. Ootes served as Toronto's first deputy mayor to Mel Lastman from 1997-2003, the first six years of Toronto's amalgamated government.
Arriving to enthusiastic applause from supporters at the Fox and Fiddle pub on Danforth Avenue, Ms. Fragedakis told the crowd she was humbled by the support she received.
"Losing was not an option, but winning or losing was not the goal," she said, adding that she promises to support small businesses, environmental initiatives and bike lanes for cyclists - a pledge that drew a positive response from the crowd.
Ms. Fragedakis ran on a platform based on creating green spaces within Ward 29 and promoting environmental initiatives - a campaign pledge that earned her an "A" rating from the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
"I want to increase the tree canopy in this ward. There are a lot of programs the city offers that allows people to plant trees, but people don't know that," she said. "I also want to introduce solar panel initiatives in this ward. I know people in this ward has expressed interest in that."
She made special mention of her parents, Emmanuel and Helen, for their support throughout her campaign. Ms. Fragedakis said her parents, who immigrated from Greece to Toronto in the 1960s, instilled her with a hardworking attitude that helped her run an efficient campaign.
"They came here to make better lives for themselves, for their family, for their kids," she said. "I just want to do right by them so that all their sacrifices are not in vain."
Ms. Pitfield arrived at Ms. Fragedakis's party to congratulate her, but declined to comment. Ms. Pitfield, the former city councillor for one of the two Don Valley West wards, took a break from municipal politics after finishing second to incumbent mayor David Miller in the 2006 mayoral race. She's spent the last four years working in the not-for-profit sector, as well as several community service efforts.
Her campaign manager Chris Yaccato said Ms. Pitfield planned to spend the night with her family, adding that it's likely she'll run for office again in the future.
"This certainly isn't the last of Jane Pitfield," he said. "We wish the results could have been different, but the people of Ward 29 have spoken and we respect that."
Toronto-Danforth MP and NDP leader Jack Layton arrived at the victor's party to congratulate Ms. Fragedakis, a fellow NDP member, after celebrating with his son Mike Layton over the younger Mr. Layton's win in the Trinity-Spadina ward.
Mr. Layton told the crowd the city will face new challenges with the election of Rob Ford as its mayor.
"We have a mayor who has been elected and should be congratulated, but he also needs to know that he's going to have to work with the people who have a progressive vision for this city," he said.
Ms. Fragedakis echoed Mr. Layton's sentiments, but said she looks forward to working with Mr. Ford. Though her party was filled with mixed reaction to Mr. Ford's appearances on nearby television screens, Ms. Fragedakis said she plans to pursue a professional working relationship with all of her newly elected co-workers.
"The people of this city have voted for him. That's democracy," she said. "I've said this to many people in the past: we don't always get to pick our co-workers, and we don't have to be best friends with our co-workers, but what we need to do is get the job done."
Special to The Globe and Mail