"Leadership" and "experience" are two words Rick Chrest says he’s using to describe his mayoral campaign leading up to the 2014 Brandon municipal election.
The local businessman and former city councillor announced his intention to seek the mayor’s seat Friday morning at the Riverbank Discovery Centre, in front of about 50 supporters.
"I’m very thrilled and flattered … to have such a great and auspicious gathering here this morning for I think what some are assuming to be a rather expected and anticlimactic announcement," he said. "Won’t all of you be surprised to learn I’m here today to announce that … I plan to have a sale at Leon’s."
After the laughter ceased, Chrest followed with his real announcement.
"It is with great honour and pleasure today that I am announcing my intention to run for the office of mayor of the City of Brandon in this fall’s election," he said. "I love Brandon, and I have always had a passion for promoting Brandon, advancing Brandon and making Brandon a proud and exciting place to live, work, invest or raise a family."
Chrest, 54, was born and raised in the Wheat City. For the past 16 years, Chrest has been the owner of Leon’s Furniture Superstore in Brandon.
He was elected to Brandon City Council in 1995 and served 11 years until retiring from the position in 2006. For eight of those years, he was the city’s deputy mayor.
Back in the ’80s, Chrest spent eight years as general manager of Brandon Chamber of Commerce. He was general manager of the Keystone Centre from 1989 to 1998.
It has been eight years since Chrest was on city council, and he said the time is right to get back into municipal politics.
"Our kids are a little older now, giving me a little more flexibility and freedom to do this sort of thing," he said. "My business is mature enough that I could step away from it, so all the stars seem to line up."
Chrest lives with his wife, Karen Chrest, and has three children. He said between his time spent on council and his business experience, he believes he has amassed an "almost ideal background" to be Brandon’s mayor.
"I’m anxious to serve our community and provide the kind of leadership that I believe I can provide and this community deserves," he said.
"I know I can hit the ground running and I pledge to provide leadership, common sense, fiscal responsibility, credibility, initiative and fairness from a known and proven commodity."
The municipal election takes place Oct. 22, and candidates cannot campaign until May 1.
Chrest said he has no intention of becoming the "unofficial opposition" to the current council.
"Our current mayor and council have fully nine months left in their mandate, and I will be respecting their right and obligation to continue to do their work," he said.
Chrest said he is not a member of any political party, but has supported friends in the past such as well-known Tory Rick Borotsik.
Chrest said he considers himself to be a "small c" conservative.
"Slightly right of centre, if I had to peg myself," he said, but added, "I kinda loathe party politics at the civic level, always have."
He said he doesn’t mind if people have party affiliations, but believes they should be "parked at the door" of city council chambers.
Chrest said he doesn’t have a campaign manager just yet, and will be assembling his campaign team over the next while.
"Over the next nine months, apart from getting my campaign organized and whatnot, I’ll also be getting my business organized," he said. "I’ve got a great team over there as well."
Current city councillors Stephen Montague (Richmond) and Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) came out to Chrest’s announcement, as well as former city councillor Doug Paterson and Wheat Kings head coach Kelly McCrimmon.
Several people from the business community were also in attendance, including Doug Murray of Murray Auto Group, Barry Cullen of Keywest Photo and Don Green of Christie’s Office Plus.
"I believe that the city needs some new direction," Green said. "I think that as much hard work as the current council and mayor have done … certainly there’s a need for, I think, a reset in the community."
Green said he believes Chrest is well qualified for the job and will bring a "hands-on perspective."
Nate Andrews, the past-president of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, is also in support of Chrest.
"He’s been in municipal politics before and I think he’s got a pretty good idea what the city needs right now," Chrest said. "Rick’s in the right time in the right place and he’s got the right set of tools … and he’s got the passion to do it. He’s in the perfect time of life, I think, to do a good job of managing our city."