Municipal politicians mull election plans

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz doused speculation she might run for a provincial seat, in the wake of Chilliwack-Hope MLA Barry Penner’s surprise announcement Thursday that he’s stepping down from cabinet.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz doused speculation she might run for a provincial seat, in the wake of Chilliwack-Hope MLA Barry Penner’s surprise announcement Thursday that he’s stepping down from cabinet.

“Lot of people have been asking if I’m going to run for Barry’s position, and the answer is no I will not,” she told The Progress.

But Gaetz will definitely be throwing her name in the hat again for the mayor’s chair later this fall.

“I will be running as mayor to continue the work we’ve started and I’m very excited about it,” she said.

A desire to continue to serve the city is part of it, and with 12 years under her belt as a city councillor, she said it’s given her a good foundation on which to build.

“I love that even as a growing city in Chilliwack, we’ve been able to maintain a small-town feeling.”

During her time on council, the city has constructed several multi-million-dollar projects using the “pay-as-you-go” philosophy, like the Evans Road overpass, the new Cultural Centre and the Cheam Centre.

“I’m also very proud that we’ve been able to keep taxes so low, and it’s been fun to watch the overall progress the city has made,” she says, adding that residential rates are 32 per cent lower than in Abbotsford.

Coun. Pat Clark, however, has made it clear she will not be running again.

That means at least two council seats will be vacant for newcomers in the November election.

“It’s been a good run of community service for me,” Clark said. “It feels like the right time to leave. Who knows what other adventures await?”

Clark spent nine years on the local school board before serving another eight years on city council.

“It’s time to switch it up,” she said. “It’s been an honour and a pleasure throughout the years, to pitch in and be a part of a good team.”

Another Chilliwack councillor is thinking about a run for MLA, but not about running for mayor.

“I’m giving it some thought,” Chuck Stam said. “Serving in Victoria has always interested me, and up to now we’ve had two very solid people in the MLA seats.”

Stam, who has served on council for 12 years, said he’s in “soul-searching” mode about whether to run for council again.

“There’s no rush right now.”

He enjoys sitting on council but there’s also something “in my spirit that gets excited when I think of not doing it.”

Voters need to balance the need for new blood on council, with the need for continuity and experience, he said.

The mayorship is not on his radar because he’d have to sell his building design business and walk away to take the reins of council in that way.

“It’s not really appealing right now.”

Coun. Ken Huttema is also holding his cards close to his chest about whether he will stand for re-election.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” he told The Progress. “Hopefully I will decide shortly. I think it’s an interesting twist now that Barry has resigned. It will likely pique everyone’s interest. It certainly will be interesting for us political junkies.”

Coun. Sue Attrill didn’t get enough with the first term on council.

“I’m running again,” she said. “I enjoyed it immensely, and I’m looking forward to the next three years.”

Coun. Stewart McLean said he’s running for a second term as a councillor.

“The first term has been a huge learning curve,” he said. “We have laid the groundwork for a lot of projects and I would like to see them through to fruition.”

Council candidates will be filing nomination papers from Oct. 4-14 no later than 4 p.m.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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