Ending a bout of online speculation, Coun. Sam Waddington confirmed Wednesday he will be running for mayor in the fall municipal election.
The 28-year-old launched his mayoral campaign from the steps of the Chilliwack Museum, which is the former City Hall building constructed in the classic Beaux-Arts style.
“Chilliwack is steeped in tradition,” said Waddington, a lifelong Chilliwack resident. Part of what is now Chilliwack was once known as Centreville, one of the third oldest settlements in B.C. after New Westminster and Fort Langley, he said.
Waddington acknowledged the campaign event was being held on unceded Sto:lo territory.
“Our community has grown but the history remains important and helps us understand where we are today,” he said.
He told the crowd he had reflected deeply on what he could contribute before deciding to run for the mayor’s chair, and his campaign focuses on how he would tackle the challenges and changes facing Chilliwack.
His decision to run came months before finding out that Mayor Sharon Gaetz had filed an Freedom of Information request to shed light on his expense report of last year.
Waddington is the second councillor to announce an intention to run for mayor. Earlier Coun. Ken Popove put his name forward.
Incumbent Mayor Sharon Gaetz has yet to say if she will seek re-election.
The campaign launch included the councillor’s friends, family, community supporters, as well as local business owners and local government officials from other jurisdictions.
The Progress asked Waddington to explain why he thinks he is ready to take the helm as mayor of Chilliwack.
“Despite my age and my relatively short tenure on council, my experience helps to give me a good perspective. It means I still have new ideas and a fresh perspective.”
Waddington said he considered what Chilliwack truly needs before committing to stand for election, and crafted a campaign platform with five major planks: Housing, public safety, economic development, transportation and community.
He said he “poured himself” into his first term on council.
“I dedicated myself completely to the work of delivering on the things I promised I would,” Waddington said, referring to campaign promises he made around citizen engagement, transportation and recreation.
The young entrepreneur won a seat on council in 2014, earning the most votes of any candidate that year. He became the founding chair of the public engagement committee, which used to be the Rural Advisory Committee. Waddington hosted town-hall engagement meetings in all corners of the city. He took on the role of inaugural chair of the public art committee, and the parks and trails committee, helping to bring these needs to the forefront of city planning.
Waddington has also been chair of the transportation committee, and helped to oversee the largest expansion ever undertaken for the Chilliwack transit system, as well as implementing Cycle Vision, the city’s first complete cycling plan.
Waddington opened his store, Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors, in 2012 and employs seven people. The next year, the business was awarded the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce New Business of the Year, and Waddington also was honoured with the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce.
The future is bright.
“Our strength today is in the desirability of the Chilliwack lifestyle, our proximity to an amazing outdoors, and our ideal location between the interior of B.C. and Metro Vancouver,” said Waddington.
Keeping up with the pace of change was a recurrent theme.
“Our city’s vision and action plan are no longer keeping up with our community’s aspirations.
“A city that never believes that it can be better will never live up to its potential,” he said.
As hopeful and as optimistic as he wants to be, Waddington said he was cognizant of the serious challenges and changes facing Chilliwack like crime, homelessness, mental health and addictions.
On the housing front: “If we are going to continue to make Chilliwack a great place to live, we need a housing strategy that keeps up with growth, provides diversity in the housing options available, and makes these options affordable.”