February 21, 2019 6:05 pm
Updated: March 19, 2019 4:36 pm

Former Eskimos boss Len Rhodes running for UCP in Edmonton-Meadows

WATCH ABOVE: Former Edmonton Eskimos CEO Len Rhodes is running for the UCP in the upcoming spring election.

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The sudden departure of former Edmonton Eskimos president and CEO Len Rhodes appears to make more sense now — he is entering politics.

Rhodes has been appointed as the candidate for the United Conservative Party in the new Edmonton-Meadows constituency.

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According to Elections Alberta, he registered on Thursday. Rhodes said he had been thinking about getting into politics for “some time,” but was waiting for what he said was the right party under the right leadership.

“My contract with the Edmonton Eskimos was going to be expiring at the end of 2019, and when I had expressed that it wasn’t going to renew, it accelerated the date to where I could depart,” Rhodes said.

“The timing was really meaningful for me, because it literally allowed me to get involved in this upcoming election. I want to make a difference, I want to win the riding, and I want Alberta to be really strong.”

READ MORE: UCP’s Jason Kenney pitches fixed vote date, changes to tax rules ahead of spring election

Three other people — Joel Mullan, Arundeep Singh Sandhu and Sant Sharma — have been vying for the nomination for months, but at a news conference Thursday, the party said they had appointed Rhodes.

Party leader Jason Kenney said there is a party rule allowing him to appoint up to four candidates so high-profile people can run. Kenney said Rhodes was not able to mount a nomination campaign due to his commitment to the Eskimos.

I don’t think that we should exclude people of Len’s caliber from the opportunity of public service simply because of their professional obligations don’t allow them to run for nomination for six or 12 months.”

“Len has an impressive track record as a chief executive officer of several major employers, most recently of the Edmonton Eskimos, capped off by his chairmanship of the successful 2018 Grey Cup Festival,” Kenney said, also citing Rhodes’s experience with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s the kind of experience we need to help get Alberta back to work. We are thrilled that one of Edmonton’s most prominent civic leaders has decided to join our new generation of leadership as a United Conservative candidate.”

READ MORE: United Conservative leader Kenney pledges education revamp if elected in Alberta

The provincial election is expected to take place some time this spring. The writ has yet to be dropped.

Rhodes announced on Feb. 11 that he was leaving the Eskimos organization. At the time, he said he wasn’t sure yet what his next opportunity would be, but did say that he hoped it would keep him in Edmonton.

His last day with the football club was this Wednesday.

“In the time that I’ve been privileged to call Edmonton home, I have grown to love this community and its people, and it’s this love that has called me to public service,” Rhodes said.

“I am excited at the prospect of representing Edmontonians in the Alberta legislature and doing what I can to make sure our city, and our province, remain among the best places in the world to live, work, do business, and raise a family.”

READ MORE: Edmonton Eskimos president and CEO Len Rhodes not seeking another term

Edmonton-Meadows is the new name of the Edmonton-Mill Creek constituency with the boundaries slightly redrawn.

This riding is in southeast Edmonton, encompassing the east side of Mill Woods, along with other neighbourhoods to the east, all the way to Anthony Henday Drive.

The seat is currently held by New Democrat Denise Woollard.

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