Nadine Nakagawa is on a roll.
Nakagawa, who was named New Westminster’s Citizen of the Year last November, cruised to victory in her first bid for city council. Nakagawa topped the polls with 7,764 votes, followed by incumbent Patrick Johnstone (7,270), incumbent Mary Trentadue (7,202) incumbent Jaimie McEvoy (6,799), Chinu Das (6,716) and incumbent Chuck Puchmayr (6,595).
“I am very excited about the women elected. We had a lot of amazing candidates step forward,” Nakagawa said. “I am really excited about the improved gender balance and the improved diversity.”
Nakagawa believes her “deep listening” and history of helping people in the community led her to the top of the polls.
“I think I’ve been here longer than people know. I have been working with members of the community, listening to them, helping them and working on issues that are important to people. I think that’s often not known,” said Nakagawa, who formerly worked as a constituency assistant to New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy. “I feel like that came out today.”
As a councillor, Nakagawa said she’s looking forward to continuing to help improve outreach to the community.
“To hear from people who are not represented – that is something I have been talking about. I think that being at the city council table will give me better opportunities to reach out.”
All six councillors elected to city council were part of Team Cote, a slate of candidates who campaigned together and were all endorsed by the New Westminster and District Labour Council.
Mayor Jonathan Cote said he “struggled” with the Team Cote name, but said the group needed to find a way to identify itself, especially after the New West Progressives formed.
“I am incredibly proud of the team of candidates. I would never run under the Team Cote banner unless I truly believed in the candidates that were running with me and what they brought to the table,” he said. “I am so impressed with the new candidates.”
Cote said the story of the night was Nakagawa topping the polls in her first election.
“That is a tremendous accomplishment, but it is reflective of how she has been a community leader in New Westminster,” he said. “She is one of the most hardworking campaigners out there.”
Cote said he first met Das when he was elected to council and served on a city committee with her.
“I know she has actually been asked for many elections to put her name forward and hasn’t until now. I’m so glad she did,” he said. “I think she will really provide that thoughtful, important, knowledgeable voice at the table. “
Trentadue, who was elected to her second term on city council, is now one of three women on council. When Lorrie Williams announced she was retiring, Trentadue said she told her team she would only run again if there were an equal number of men and women on Team Cote, rather than four men and two women.
“I was really pushing for women to be voted for. People at the door did say, ‘I am voting for women.’ I did hear that a lot. I was asking for it but people did say they were voting for women,” she said. “I think women are tired of not seeing fair representation of themselves at the table, at any table. Whenever I go to political things, there are always way more men than women. I am not saying it should be all women, but there has to be a balance.”
While five incumbents have been returned to council, Cote said the new council will have a strategic planning session over the next few months to determine what it wants to achieve during its term in office.
“I think the results tonight definitely support the direction that we have been working on on city council for the last four years,” he said. “We have got two brand new city councillors who are going to have their viewpoints that are going to want to be incorporated into the vision.”