BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst chats with Brandon Sun reporter Jillian Austin on Friday. Decter Hirst announced that she will run for re-election.
Brandon’s first female mayor hopes to don the city’s Chain of Office for another four years.
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst declared her intention to seek re-election in the upcoming municipal election early Friday morning, making her announcement via Twitter.
"Good morning #bdnmb! I wanted to let the twitter-verse know that I am running for re-election. City has momentum & opportunities ahead!" Decter Hirst (@MayorShari) wrote before 6 a.m.
She also sent out a mass email to supporters at that time, writing that voters would be faced with a "familiar choice" in the fall election.
"And it is also a very clear choice. It is not just a choice about different personalities, different styles of leadership, different sets of priorities and values. The choice in 2014 is about very different visions for our city."
The official campaign period for mayoral candidates begins May 1. There was wide speculation that Decter Hirst would seek a second term, however, she stayed tight-lipped over the past few months, saying she was waiting to finish city business like the budget before considering the run.
The only other candidate — so far — is former city councillor and local businessman Rick Chrest, who announced in January that he’ll be taking at run at the mayor’s chair. While Chrest held a press conference, bringing out about 50 supporters to make his announcement, Decter Hirst decided to keep it more low key. She didn’t have a formal event, instead using social media to spread the word.
"Partly, it’s the reality of the mayor’s schedule," Decter Hirst said.
The Brandon Sun met with the mayor later Friday morning at a coffee shop when she had a free half-hour in between other commitments.
Decter Hirst greeted the reporter, editor and photographer with a beaming smile, and said she was thrilled to finally make her re-election bid official.
"It’s been a long time thinking and planning and pulling folks together, so to be able to be now public and launched … it’s great," she said.
The mayor plans on opening a campaign office and will likely host an event at that time.
Decter Hirst looked back at her three and half years in office and recalled some of the biggest accomplishments as well as challenges she has faced so far.
Fighting the historic flood of 2011 is one of her strongest memories, she said, as the city came together to deal with a "very primal, elemental threat to our safety."
A major highlight came last summer when WestJet Encore began offering daily air service between Brandon and Calgary.
She said it was quite the experience to be part of that inaugural flight celebration, when people could see it as a "tangible key to what could come next."
The mayor had a major role in the Wheat City’s efforts to woo WestJet. A petition was launched, which garnered more than 10,000 signatures, creative campaigns were developed and a group of city representatives travelled to Calgary to present a business case to the airline in June 2012.
Other initiatives Decter Hirst said she was proud to see get off the ground during her time in office include the affordable housing strategy.
"There’s a lot more work that needs to be done … but as more properties come on line, as more funding sources are opened up, we can begin to address this need that impacts so many families in our city," she said.
The popular green cart organic pickup program and Sunday bus service are other highlights. She is also proud of the "open and transparent" city hall.
"We do a phenomenal number now of public outreach events — there aren’t decisions that are made that don’t involve that kind of public consultation," she said.
"This is a city that belongs to the residents of Brandon, and they have a say in how it’s being developed."
When Decter Hirst was elected in 2010, she admits there were a few learning curves, as it was her first foray into public office. Despite the hurdles, she has often called being Brandon’s mayor "the best job in the world."
"If you look at the first two years versus the second two years, there has been a greater comfort both in the mayor’s chair as well as in the general community, that in fact we are on track and going in the right direction," she said.
Looking ahead to the next four years, Decter Hirst says building prosperity and economic development would be a priority.
She said in her first term the city has laid a lot of groundwork through planning and engineering departments, to help the community grow physically. Now there needs to be plans for growth opportunities in various sectors, such as agriculture or manufacturing.
"We need to go out there and market Brandon, just as aggressively in those areas as we did with WestJet," she said. "I want to be part of that piece as well."
Decter Hirst is a member of the NDP, while Chrest has said he considers himself a small-c conservative.
Chrest said he was pleased to see Decter Hirst announce her intentions.
"We certainly have been wondering for quite a while," Chrest said. "It certainly helps me and my team solidify our campaign plans now that we know we have at least one challenger."
Chrest said he is looking forward to a "good race" and that it is important for Brandon residents to have a choice.
"In my view it’s just extremely critical that Brandon has a solid competitive election so that residents can become engaged in the future of this great city," he said. "I think this really sets it up nicely to have exactly what Brandon needs, and maybe there will be more candidates yet."
Brandon’s municipal election takes place Oct. 22.
» Twitter: @jillianaustin
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 26, 2014