May 25th, 2024

Mayor Spearman not running in next election

By Herald on January 7, 2021.

After 8 years serving as the Mayor of Lethbridge, Chris Spearman says this term will be his last and he will not be running in this fall's election. Herald file photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
Mayor Chris Spearman will not run for office again in 2021.
Spearman spoke to The Herald in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, confirming he would be retiring from municipal politics after eight years following this October’s city elections.
“I have been thinking about things for awhile, and this past year with COVID has certainly been challenging,” he said. “One of the things I notice is I miss my family a lot, and I want to look after my health. I want to spend more time with my kids and grandkids, and I want to travel a bit.
“I have certainly enjoyed the privilege of serving the citizens,” Spearman added, “and I think letting people know now I won’t be running will give some other people time to plan and think about the possibility of serving and running.”
Spearman was first elected as Lethbridge’s 25th mayor in 2013 by more than 3,000 votes over his nearest opponent, and then went on to win again in 2017– this time garnering over 73 per cent of the vote.
Prior to running for mayor, Spearman had spent 18 years as an elected trustee of the Holy Spirit Catholic School Board. He enjoyed a 33-year career as a controller at Black Velvet Distillery before retiring to run for public office.
Known for his charismatic public persona and his feisty personality, Spearman enjoyed great popularity and public support through much of his time in office. In 2018 a social media comment attributed to Spearman as community tensions boiled over about the ARCHES-run Supervised Consumption Site did impact his popularity. Spearman was reported to have said to detractors, “instead of whining about it, why not just leave.” His strong defence of harm reduction in Lethbridge led to a much stronger vocal opposition against him in recent years.
Indeed, Spearman lists the supervised consumption site and the slow progress of successive provincial governments to deliver on necessary social housing supports and treatment centres to combat the drug crisis in Lethbridge as his greatest disappointments in office.
“Supporting people in need has been challenging,” he said, “and the whole issue around the Supervised Consumption Site was a huge disappointment as well, and how that turned out.”
While the SCS remains a thorny issue among his detractors, the city also experienced unprecedented growth and prosperity during Spearman’s term in office.
“I thought we got quite a lot of things done,” he said. “Attracting the largest private investment in the city’s history– the Cavendish investment– was certainly very satisfactory. Building the ATB Centre was certainly fantastic for our city. I think we have set up Lethbridge for some success in the future with the approval of the Exhibition Park project, the agri-hub, and just being strategic in saying we want to invest in things that support the economy and encourage investment going forward. I think those are all positive things. We have also made progress on reconciliation with our Indigenous friends and neighbours, and with the adopting of the word ‘Oki’ as the City’s official greeting it is another step forward. Those have all been positive things.”
Spearman also lists the completion of the University of Lethbridge’s new Science Building as an amazing achievement to experience during his time in office.
Many of these achievements came about as a result of the strong relationship Spearman enjoyed with the provincial government under former NDP Premier Rachel Notley. However, Spearman was able to successfully pivot in 2019 to create a pragmatic and productive, if not close, working relationship with the Kenney UCP government to help bring in major provincial investments for Exhibition Park and the Lethbridge Airport in 2020.
Over the last year, Spearman was praised for his leadership during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for compassionately guiding residents through the personal and economic stresses that came with it. He continued to advocate strongly for public restraint and personal responsibility in helping to keep COVID cases low in Lethbridge. He strongly supported a temporary mandatory face-covering bylaw in the city months before the provincial government introduced its own.
Spearman said he believes in the resilience of Lethbridge, and is certain once this pandemic ends the city will emerge stronger and more prosperous than ever.
“We have a great city,” stated Spearman. “And it has always bothered me when people were critical of our city, and they were putting the city down. I have lived here for 40 years. I came here in 1981, and I am proud of the city, and proud of what I have seen as the city grew and diversified our economy. It was great to see the university grow. All four of my kids went to the University of Lethbridge, and I think that was a great advantage of living in the city. We have many of the advantages of a large city, and very few of the hassles.”
Other notable moments of Spearman’s time in office include bringing in major events like the Men’s World Curling Championship, the Alberta 55-Plus Games, and the University Cup. Lethbridge’s population exceeded 100,000 for the first time in its history making it in, the Mayor’s words, “a small Calgary” instead of a “large Taber.” The untimely death of 37-year-old city councillor Wade Galloway in an avalanche in Waterton. The introduction of the City’s first domestic “blue bin” recycling collection program, and the construction of a new Materials Recovery Facility. The creation of an enhanced cycling pathway system in Lethbridge. And the City’s acquisition of the Lethbridge Airport from Lethbridge County.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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