Former Conservative MP Joe Preston to run for mayor of St. Thomas

St. Thomas's declaration comes days after Ontario declared a state of emergency on Tuesday. .
St. Thomas's declaration comes days after Ontario declared a state of emergency on Tuesday. . Jaclyn Carbone/980 CFPL

A high profile figure in St. Thomas politics is making a comeback.

Former Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London Joe Preston announced Tuesday morning he’s running for mayor of St. Thomas.

Preston, 63, represented St. Thomas for four terms and 11 years as an MP in Stephen Harper’s government. The long-time MP announced in advance of the 2015 election he wouldn’t run for re-election. Karen Vecchio, Preston’s executive assistant for 7 years, ran in his place and won easily.

Preston spoke to supporters on the steps of St. Thomas City Hall after he officially registered for the race.

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“As an employer and local business owner, I know local taxpayers would like to see more growth in jobs and more housing development. I am listening to and agree with many that we can achieve more by working together to get more done. It will require someone capable who knows how to be an effective voice for St. Thomas,” he said.

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Preston joins St. Thomas councillor Steve Wookey and rap artist Malichi Male in the race for mayor. Two-term mayor Heather Jackson has said she plans to seek re-election but hasn’t filed her nomination papers.

The former MP is expected to promote his conservative connections saying St. Thomas needs a mayor “who knows how to get things done” now that there’s a new government in power at Queen’s Park.

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“We have an advantage now with a cabinet minister as our local MPP,” Preston said. “There is a new culture at Queen’s Park and we will need to seize on the new direction to bring direct benefits to local residents and businesses.”

Preston has kept busy since retiring from federal politics in 2015. He co-founded Living Alive Granola soon after leaving politics and saw quick success. The granola made from local farms has spread to a number of local supermarkets. He has stayed active in politics, in 2016 he was elected to the federal Conservatives’ National Council.

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Preston also owns and operates a Wendy’s and Boston Pizza in St. Thomas. The local business owner is well known for being active in community and charity endeavours. He has volunteered with the United Way, the Great Lakes International Air Show and worked with the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce and Farmtown Canada.

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Preston isn’t the only former politician making a comeback this fall in St. Thomas. Former Liberal MPP Steve Peters, the former Speaker of the Legislative, has filed his papers to run for city council.

Voters in St. Thomas go to the polls Oct. 22.