SURREY â€” In what was a swanky affair, complete with a jazz quartet and a performance by â€œMr. O Canadaâ€ Mark Donnelly, the new Surrey council was sworn into office Monday night at city hall.
â€œWinning an election is a great feeling but itâ€™s even more special when your entire team gets across that finish line,â€ said Mayor Linda Hepner in her inaugural address.
Returning councillors are Tom Gill, Bruce Hayne, Mary Martin, Barbara Steele and Judy Villeneuve. New additions to the table are Mike Starchuk, Dave Woods and Vera LeFranc.
During her speech, Hepner spoke of transportation, public safety, business, taxes and more.
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She said her first order of business will be actively promoting a yes vote in the springâ€™s transportation referendum, which she plans to do through an engagement strategy.
â€œWe need the light rail project, as well as the other significant public transportation initiatives that will fund. By 2041, Surrey is projected to grow by an additional 50 per cent â€“ thatâ€™s 750,000 people relying on just eight per cent of the regionâ€™s rapid transit service. I intend to see that rectified,â€ she stated.
Hepner said, as promised during the election, she will be requesting an additional 100 officers to compliment the 30 coming in the spring.
The letter to the province requesting the officers has not yet gone in.
â€œIt canâ€™t go into the province until we formally request it at a budget meeting, which will happen on (Dec.) 15,â€ she said after her speech.
She promised an emphasis on neighbourhood policing.
â€œWe will see frontline officers build relationships with residents and business owners and become more engrained in the very fabric of our neighbourhoods.â€
During the election, Surrey First committed to hiring a â€œcitizenâ€™s advocateâ€ who would act as a point of contact between the public and the RCMP. Hepner said sheâ€™s currently looking at whether that person should be in the RCMPâ€™s community offices or hers.
When it comes to business, Hepner said she plans to expand Innovation Boulevard to include other industry sectors, noting Surrey is already home to 20 per cent of B.C.â€™s clean tech businesses.
She also stated sheâ€™s committed to keeping taxes the lowest in the region.
â€œIâ€™m hopeful that the tax rate stays the same, but Iâ€™ll have to look at some of those levies though to see where we are,â€ she noted. That will also be looked at on Dec. 15, she added.
Hepner also spoke of a follow-up initiative to the Build Surrey program, dubbed the â€œNext Generation Fund,â€ which would include a museum expansion, as well as new recreation centres, parks and playing fields.
She said she intends to create a cultural corridor to advance Surreyâ€™s creative industry, hopes to make the city more age-friendly and develop a social innovation strategy.
â€œThere is a long list of things to get done and the list is getting longerâ€¦. Over the next four years, time will be a precious commodity,â€ Hepner said.
As for wards, she said while she doesnâ€™t believe in the system herself, she is â€œprepared to listenâ€ if itâ€™s what the public wants.
Asked if she would be creating a deputy mayor position, Hepner didnâ€™t rule it out.
â€œHaving a deputy mayor requires a bylaw and also requires me to abdicate some authority directly to a deputy mayor and not to have it myself. And until my own feet are solidly on the ground as mayor I wonâ€™t be doing anything like that,â€ she said.
During her address, the new mayor quoted Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield who said, â€œI wasnâ€™t destined to be an astronaut, I had to turn myself into one.â€
â€œThatâ€™s how I feel about our city,â€ Hepner said. â€œNo community is destined to be great. It is up to us to decide what kind of city we want Surrey to be. Then, it is up to us to do the real work that turns us into a great city. Hoping that destiny alone will produce greatness is fiction.â€
She said the â€œnext great chapter in the life of this great city starts today, and each one of us is its author. So letâ€™s start writing it together.â€
Following the oath of office, Pastor Randy Emerson of Cloverdale Christian Church led an invocation.
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â€œItâ€™s an honour to pray and bless this new council and her worship the mayor. So letâ€™s pray,â€ Emerson said.
â€œWe pray that you will bless us with your continued presence, because without it, hatred and arrogance will infect our hearts. But with your blessing, we know that we can break down the walls that separate us. We pray for your blessing today, because without it, distrust, prejudice and animosity will rule our hearts. But with the blessing of your presence, we know that we can renew the ties of mutual regard which can best form our civic life.â€
After the inauguration ceremony, the new council held its first council meeting, to appoint representatives to the Metro Vancouver board of directors. Appointed were Hepner, Villeneuve, Steele, Hayne, Martin, and Gill was appointed as alternate for mayor.