By Tim Kalinowski on July 23, 2021.
A major piece of the race to fill the Mayor’s seat moved onto the board as former two-term city councillor and BILD Lethbridge executive office Bridget Mearns announced she will be seeking the highest elected office in the city this fall.
“Four years ago, I decided to leave city council after serving two terms, but I always knew I would be back to public life,” Mearns told supporters at the Galt Museum on Thursday. “Public service is a core of who I am.
“I watched the last council,” she added, “and I listened to the people of the city who reached out to me to tell me they were tired of a divisive council, tired of progress-slowing division created in our city. They wanted change, and they wanted to get things done. I saw there was something I had to offer, and now is the time for me to make that offer to the citizens of Lethbridge. I want to be their mayor.”
“People want a real choice for mayor,” she concluded- “a choice that is clearly different. A mayor that has vision, has experience, and has the skills to build both collaboratively and get things done.”
If elected Mearns would be the first female mayor elected in Lethbridge’s 130-year history.
“It has been 130 years,” Mearns commented when asked the question by local reporters. “So it seems now is a good time.”
Mearns said collaboration is particularly key to getting a handle on the city’s pressing social problems.
“First and foremost we need to talk to the experts,” she said. “The frontline people who are doing this work everyday. Look at other municipalities. The Calgary drop-in centre, for example, has housed 1,400 people over the last two and a half years â€¦ This is a problem across North America, and we’re not alone. So reaching out to people who have had success, speaking to the frontline people, speaking to the people we are serving, and making sure we are doing right by them.”
On the housing issues facing the city, Mearns said her development industry experience should serve all citizens well.
“For new developments, we can look at land use bylaws, and looking at ensuring we have that social infrastructure already embedded in any new development,” she said by way of example. “So there are many things we can look at. It won’t be easy, but if we are united and common in that goal I am confident that we can make progress.”
She also said her experience with local politics and on various provincial boards will allow her to forge a positive and constructive relationship with provincial officials and other elected leaders to get Lethbridge the resources it needs to deal with many of these issues.
“That’s going to take a mayor that has the respect of council as well as a non-partisan relationship with other orders of government,” she stated, perhaps taking a subtle shot at mayoral candidate Blaine Hyggen who some perceive as having too close a relationship with the United Conservative Party.
Mearns was asked about her own close ties to the local development industry which some perceive as having too much sway in city politics. The Herald asked her about the recent conflict between BILD and city council during the public hearings surrounding the Municipal Development Plan in that context, and how as mayor she intended to navigate that relationship for the good of all citizens?
“That Municipal Development Plan was developed with less of our (BILD) input than we liked,” she stated, “and it had to go to a public hearing. That was the only way we could communicate with council. That system itself was flawed, and it looked confrontational where it didn’t necessarily have to be. But as mayor, I bring that private experience, that development experience, that non-profit experience. I think it just makes me a better, more well-rounded mayor.”
Mearns also confirmed she would step away from her duties for BILD while running for mayor, and would resign her position with BILD if elected.
In her run for Mayor, Mearns said she is bringing a strong vision to the city of how to make Lethbridge a better place to live for everyone: A thriving city with a booming economy which works together to create a brighter future for not only those living here today, but for future generations to come.
“We need change so we can set up future generations for success by making forward-thinking decisions that will see dividends for them,” she stated. “My Lethbridge is not defined by our problems, but rather our richness in diversity, culture, trails and parks, world class post-secondary opportunities, a resilient and supportive local economy, and pride in all we are, and all we can be.”
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