CITY CENTRE â€” Surrey First announced Wednesday that current council member Linda Hepner will be putting herself forward as the party’s mayoral candidate for the municipal elections this fall.
Held at SFU’s Surrey campus, the event was attended by many of the city’s community stakeholders and politicians. The event began with outgoing mayor and Surrey First founder Dianne Watts introducing the Surrey First team followed by her â€œfully and without reservationâ€ endorsing Hepner to the crowd.
â€œWhile today Dianne has passed the torch, the purpose for Surrey First remains the same,â€ said Hepner after being introduced by Watts.
â€œIâ€™m committed to building on the momentum that we have created over the last nine years, and creating more jobs here in Surrey for our residents. Our team is committed to a safe community,â€ she said, going on to address the issues of crime, transportation and cultural engagement.
Also among the announcements were new three new additions to the Surrey First councillor slate. The new faces are Vera LeFranc, senior manager of community projects for Vancity and a coordinator of the Surrey Homeless and Housing Fund, Dave Woods, a retired RCMP Staff Sgt and former district commander for Port Kells/Cloverdale and longtime firefighter Mike Starchuk who was not present at the event.
The three new members will join incumbent councillors Tom Gill, Bruce Hayne, Mary Martin, Barbara Steele and Judy Villeneuve who will all be seeking re-election this fall.
â€œI feel incredibly proud to be on the Surrey First team,â€ said LeFranc after the announcement. â€œI personally have wanted to make a commitment to political life for a long time, so when I was asked it was an easy decision for me.â€
Woods felt similarly pleased to be among the Surrey First group.
â€œIâ€™ve known the councillors for a long timeâ€¦ but I was honoured they asked me, frankly. Surrey First has done a very good job in running the City of Surrey,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s very much what Iâ€™ve done before in dealing with the community and working with the community and I enjoy it so I want to contribute in a positive way.â€
LeFranc, Starchuk and Woods replace Hepner, Marvin Hunt and Barinder Rasode as the party’s council candidates. Hunt left his councillor position earlier this year after being elected the MLA for Surrey-Panorama in the 2013 provincial election, while Rasode split from Surrey First in April citing disagreements with the party.
Hepner was first elected to Surrey council in 2005 and was subsequently re-elected in 2008 and 2011. Prior to her political career, Hepner worked as the city’s manager of economic development for more than 20 years before retiring and running for office in 2005.
And while Hepner is currently the only person to declare her intent to run in Surreyâ€™s mayoral election, all eyes are now on Rasode.
Rasode ‘seriously considering’ mayoral bid
After splitting from Surrey first a few months ago, there’s been much talk within the community that Rasode also has her eye on the mayor’s seat.
Asked Wednesday if Hepner’s announcement would lead to her own declaration Rasode played coy, saying she’s aware of the talk in the community.
However, short of confirming a mayoral bid, Rasode said she would do what she felt the community wanted her to do.
"It is something that Iâ€™m very seriously considering and if residents in Surrey want my name on the ballot, that will be evident after the work Iâ€™m doing over the summer," she said.
Rasode said she plans to continue her community engagement in order to build a mandate from residents and get a true feel for issues affecting the city.
"So the decision to put my name forward for mayor, which I know is being talked about, will solely be based on a platform with the community."