Longtime Surrey First Councillor Judy Villeneuve has announced she will not be seeking re-election this fall, joining her Surrey First colleagues Councillor Mary Martin and Mayor Linda Hepner in stepping away from politics.
Villeneuve has served on Surrey City Council in 1989.
According to a release, she’s the longest-serving city councillor in Surrey’s history.
Villeneuve’s focus as a politician has centred around social, environmental and cultural issues. She currently serves as chair of Surrey’s Social Police and Public Art Advisory committees, as a member of finance and police committees, and is Surrey’s representative on the Metro Vancouver board.
“My family and I moved to Surrey more than 40 years ago, but even back then it was easy to see Surrey’s incredible potential,” said Villeneuve in a statement. “My 29 consecutive years on council have given me a tremendous opportunity to watch our city evolve and mature, and while I know there’s still plenty more to be done in the years ahead, I also know I want to spend more time with my family and make room for new voices who can continue building and shaping our city’s future.”
Villeneuve said in a statement it has been “a real pleasure and privilege to play a part in the life of our city as a councillor.”
“But, the biggest impact on me has been the people I’ve met along the way,” she added. “The volunteers, the activists, the community leaders and the city staff who put our city first are definitely Surrey’s biggest asset, particularly when it comes to building a modern, progressive community with a welcoming heart.”
Villeneuve thanked her Surrey First council colleagues for their leadership, ongoing support and friendship over the years.
“When you have a city council that knows how to work together, it’s amazing what you can get done,” said Villeneuve. “That sense of respect and collaboration, even among people who don’t always agree on every issue, makes all the difference, and the results are incredible. The proof is in just how far our city has come in a very short amount of time, and the reputation we’re building together as a great place to live and work. None of this happens if you don’t have a community vision and citizens who want to go to work creating the kind of future we all want.”
Hepner said Villeneuve’s name is “synonymous with public service, and her fingerprints are on much of what makes Surrey so appealing to families right across the city.”
“Judy has always been a tireless worker and advocate for a Surrey that is inclusive, creative, and caring,” said Hepner in a release. “When Judy speaks, people in Surrey listen, because they know she always puts their interests first, particularly when it comes to shaping neighbourhoods, and tackling important issues such as homelessness, art and culture, public safety and urban design. No one on council has Judy’s years of experience, and that’s been of tremendous value as we continue to write the next chapter in the Surrey story.”
Villeneuve said that while she will miss sitting on council, she’s looking forward to “staying engaged, particularly when it comes to issues that are important to Surrey’s future.”
“I’ll miss being on council, but I’m also very excited about what comes next,” added Villeneuve. “Once you’re interested in your community and its future, it’s something that stays with you for a lifetime.”
Villeneuve follows in fellow Surrey First Councillor Mary Martin’s footsteps in stepping away from politics.
Martin, who has served on council since 2005, announced in May that she wouldn’t seek re-election.
Meantime, five Surrey First councillors told the Now-Leader they are considering a mayoral run, after Hepner announced she wouldn’t be seeking re-election: Dave Woods, Vera LeFranc, Tom Gill, Mike Starchuk and Bruce Hayne have expressed interest in the top job.
Surrey First, which currently holds all seats on council, has not officially chosen its mayoral candidate or released a slate of council candidates. It’s expected that will materialize soon.
Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum and former Surrey First councillor Barinder Rasode — who both ran for mayor unsuccessfully in the 2014 civic election — won’t rule out a mayoral run.
Former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, meanwhile, laughed off rumours of a comeback.
“No, I’m not running for mayor,” Watts told the Now-Leader. “Lots of rumours going around.”
Three new slates — Surrey Community Alliance, Proudly Surrey and People First Surrey — have materialized in Surrey that intend to challenge the reigning Surrey First party in the Oct. 20 civic election.
Just over 100,000 people cast a ballot in Surrey in the 2014 civic election, up from 70,253 in 2011. Out of 287,940 eligible Surrey voters, the city said 101,558 cast a ballot – a 35.3 per cent voter turnout. That is up from 2008 and 2011 elections, which saw a 24.1 per cent and 25 per cent turnout respectively.
Surrey voters head to the polls on Oct. 20, 2018.