The last hockey players had long since trundled smelly gear out of the Minden arena and the Zamboni engine had cooled. It was about 10 p.m. Oct. 24. and on a normal night, the arena’s lights would be flicking off by now.

This wasn’t a normal night.

A gaggle of locals stuck around. They stood, they paced, they joked, they laughed.

They were waiting for election results.

It was a reassuring sight to see after observing council, and Minden Hills politics in general, from behind a computer screen since I began work at The Highlander.

I saw candidates who had campaigned for the same seat on council smiling and sharing memories, overheard longtime municipal politicians sharing insights with hopefuls and a whole bunch of tongue-incheek instructions to “hurry up and wait” for the results, which were to be posted on the lobby’s television screen.

Results from other municipalities filtered in first through the glow of cell phones. Talk shifted to results in the south: Hamilton, Toronto, the City of Kawartha Lakes.

It seemed to me – and perhaps others too – that Minden Hills was the very last to know its future leaders (at least, those who weren’t acclaimed).

More than two hours after most candidates arrived, at about 10:25, the township’s election officials plugged in a USB stick and the results flashed onto the screen.

It was quiet.

And then handshakes, smiles and more than a few more jokes. Winners congratulated those who weren’t elected. Those who weren’t elected congratulated those who were. Loved ones smiled and hugged.

And then they filtered out of the arena into the cool October evening, most heading over to the Minden Hills Legion.

Not just the winners, mind you. Many of those who weren’t successful came too.

They shared tables and hoisted beverages with those who will be sworn into office. Outgoing mayor Brent Devolin was there. So was Coun. Jean Neville.

They celebrated together.

I expected a fair bit of apprehension, but also a bit of tension that night. This was an important election after all, the stakes are high. Inflation is too. It’s a difficult time for many local residents. Minden Hills has a range of contentious issues both in the rearview mirror and on the road ahead. Many don’t like where the road seems to be leading. The Highlander looks forward to asking these councillors – new and old – the hard questions, challenging their assumptions and ensuring residents’ voices reach council over the next four years.

We’ll do that. But we recognize that smalltown politics is special and even refreshing. It isn’t always a debate in council chambers or flashy campaign slogans. Sometimes it’s winners and losers shaking hands in the community arena. Sometimes it’s councillors new and old sharing a table and good conversation long after the last vote is cast