Brandonites won’t head to the polls to elect a new mayor for nearly six months, but the campaign officially began Thursday.
May 1 marked the first day candidates could register as mayoral candidates, and challenger Rick Chrest was first to file his papers at Brandon City Hall.
"I’m really excited, spent the last three months, essentially since announcing, talking to lots of people and frankly more listening than talking," Chrest said "I’ve been certainly wanting to find out what people want in a mayor and council, what they want from their city."
Chrest says the common themes that have come up when talking to voters include strong leadership, sound financial management, economic development and re-focusing on core services.
"I would be wanting to re-energize some of Brandon’s famous spirit," he said. "I was involved in a long string of hosting of major events, and we seemed to have lost some of that. I think those events require a lot of volunteers but it really brings the community together, galvanizes our community pride."
Chrest is a former Brandon city councillor, serving University ward from 1995 to 2006. He is currently the owner of Leon’s Furniture Superstore. The local businessman announced his intention to seek the mayor’s seat back in January.
He says he’s been overwhelmed by the number of people who have approached him to offer their comments and support over the last three months.
"The thing that probably overwhelmed me the most was the number of people who have just called me up unsolicited that want to work on our campaign," he said. "I think I’m over 90 (people) already and we haven’t really even got started."
His campaign managers are Michael Leech and Lori Dangerfield, while Don Green is the official agent.
Chrest said they plan to ramp up the campaign over time, with most of the information coming out closer to the October election.
"People don’t want to pay attention to this for months and months on end … we’re going to be respectful of that and not be in people’s face for six months long," he said.
"We really want a good, engaging campaign, and we really need people to get out and participate, there’s a lot at stake."
Meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Shari Decter Hirst filed her papers Thursday afternoon.
"I am so excited, I am vibrating," Decter Hirst said as she walked out of the city clerk’s office. "I can think of a million things now that we want to get going and doing, things that we want to talk to the residents of Brandon about, now that we can officially get started."
Donning a bright pink cardigan, Decter Hirst signed the papers wearing the same colour that was a major theme in her successful campaign four years ago.
Decter Hirst said she plans on spending the month of May learning how to balance mayoral responsibilities with candidate opportunities.
"I think that’s really important that there is a separation between the two of them, so that’ll give me basically a month of seeing how the two pieces fit together," she said. "As we move closer to June, we’ll certainly start gearing up with a variety of things."
The mayor said she is "absolutely committed" to running on the record of her first term.
"That is a record of growth and prosperity and commitment to the community," she said. "So people in Brandon won’t find any surprises there."
Battling the 2011 flood, welcoming daily WestJet air service and Sunday bus service are a few of the highlights from the past three-and-a-half years, Decter Hirst said.
As for her vision for the city for the next four years, Decter Hirst said she sees it becoming bigger and more prosperous.
"I see that we’re going to have to, as we get bigger … ensure that we don’t lose the quality of life issues such as safety, green space, and that sense of neighbours looking out for each other, because those are also things that are very valuable to the community."
Decter Hirst’s official agent is Dayle Hughson.
If there are any other potential mayoral candidates, they have until the end of the nomination period (Sept. 16) to file papers.
The two registered candidates can now start spending money and accepting donations toward the campaign.
"Today they will be providing their information on their bank account that they have to establish to track their election expenses," said Heather Ewasiuk, the city’s senior elections official. "It has to be a separate account aside from any personal account."
Campaign spending limits for mayoral candidates is $16,000, and the maximum personal contribution is $1,500.
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