Desjarlais says council run will be his last

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The city councillor representing Brandon’s downtown wants one more term on the job.

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The city councillor representing Brandon’s downtown wants one more term on the job.

On Monday, Coun. Kris Desjarlais (Rosser) told the Sun that he’ll be on the ballot vying for a third term when this fall’s municipal election rolls around.

So far, Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) and Mayor Rick Chrest are the only incumbents who have declared their intentions not to run for re-election.

File City director of planning Ryan Nickel (left) and Coun. Kris Desjarlais (Rosser) (right) talk to residents about planned renovations to the Library/Arts Building at a Rosser ward meeting last week at the Park Community Centre. Desjarlais has announced his intention to run for re-election in this fall's municipal election.

Desjarlais, the director of Indigenous education at Assiniboine Community College, said that it wasn’t a matter of finding a reason to run again but finding a reason to stop running. However, he said this will be his last run at city council.

“I really enjoy representing the residents and being involved in decision making,” Desjarlais said. “It’s something that my family, my mom and dad were passionate about and I come at it pretty honestly and naturally. But it takes a time commitment and it takes you away from your family sometimes.”

Ultimately, Desjarlais said that the decision was to run again with made with his partner, and the couple believed that they could handle four more years.

Though the mayor’s seat will be up for grabs this summer, Desjarlais said he was “never” interested in making a run for the position.

“It takes a certain kind of individual,” he said. “I think someone like Rick Chrest really represented the city incredibly well. There are a lot of facets to the position, and I think a lot of things he does behind the scenes are super important. He’s really solidified a lot of the relationships we have with the federal government and even our First Nations and Indigenous communities and organizations.

”It takes a certain kind of person to do that gig day in and day out and be unflappable, and I’m just not sure I’m that person.”

He said that if Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine) ends up as the only mayoral candidate this year, he’d do a “great job” and praised his three terms of experience in municipal politics.

Last week at a ward meeting, Desjarlais’ constituents expressed hope that he would be a champion for downtown projects like renovations to the Library/Arts Building and the demolition and replacement of the Park Community Centre.

Those projects, he said, are items he’d like to see cross the finish line should voters grant him a third term in office.

“I think we have to do a better job on climate change and preparing our city for the future that way,” he said looking ahead to the next council. “There are some really important decisions to make around growth and taxation over the next few years that are going to have an important role in the future of our city going forward.”

On the state of downtown Brandon, Desjarlais believes that progress was being made during his first four or five years on council and halted when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

“We can’t make the pandemic the excuse for all our ills, but it certainly didn’t help at all,” he said. “If folks already had a negative view, a negative perception of the downtown before the pandemic, that wasn’t going to change post-pandemic. We’re pulling ourselves out of that now.”

He said he’s impressed with people standing up and volunteering to be leaders when it comes to downtown issues, like with the downtown task force, the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, the Brandon Downtown Development Corporation and Brandon Bear Clan.

“There’s an all-hands-on-deck mentality right now, which is helpful,” Desjarlais said. “It’s going to take a city, an entire community to turn things around in the downtown, but I remain optimistic that we can achieve that.”

Other after-effects of the pandemic, financial uncertainty and rising costs, he said, will be a tough hand for the city as it tries to balance limiting tax increases while still providing services.

On the issue of voter turnout, which reared its head both in the last municipal election and last year’s Meadows-Waverly byelection, Desjarlais said he has some out-of-the-box ideas to encourage people to go to the polls.

“Low voter turnout does not always equal apathy,” he said. “It can, it often does, but it doesn’t always. Sometimes low voter turnout is steady as she goes, everyone’s comfortable with the way things are. I’m not saying that’s what’s been happening, but it’s possible.”

One potential solution, he believes, could be entering voters into a lottery where one lucky person will get their municipal taxes returned for the year. Whatever the solution is, he doesn’t want a system where people are punished for not voting, like in Australia.

Another issue Desjarlais believes the city needs to address is to make city council positions more enticing so that a greater variety of candidates are interested in running, no matter their background.

As of last Thursday, the registration period for both mayoral and council candidates are both open. Election day is Oct. 26.

» cslark@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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