Saint John, N.B., Mayor Don Darling shocked the city with the announcement that he won’t be seeking re-election.
Ward 3 Councillor David Hickey says there was no internal discussion or consultation before Darling posted online he was out.
“This was certainly an unexpected one for me,” Hickey says.
In February, Darling said he would run for a second term in this spring’s municipal election, stating in a Facebook Live that “there is more to do.”
Don Darling has been the Mayor of Saint John since 2016.
Darling’s predecessor in the mayor’s office, Mel Norton, says the job brings a completely unique set of challenges, including a level of recognition and responsibility that means you’re always on the clock.
“As soon as you step out your front door you’re with your constituents,” says Norton, “and most of your constituents are going to be supporting you — some of them are going to be doing the best they can that day and have challenges.
“Some days you can help them, others the best you can do is have an empathetic ear.”
Norton served a single term before opting not to seek re-election in 2016.
He wouldn’t immediately rule out running again this year.
“I’ve learned some time ago to never say never,” he says. “I never like to rule out possibilities.”
Neither would Hickey.
“It’s something I might consider along the line,” he says, “but not right now.”
Both men are hoping anyone considering a run for the seat is able to navigate its challenges.
Norton says one of the greatest challenges of the position is finding common ground.
“Everybody wants the same thing at the most basic level,” he says. “Everyone wants to build a great community.”
Darling has been outspoken about the stress he’s faced trying to do just that.
In the fall, he took to social media to express that he’d even had thoughts of quitting due to “threats, insults, bullying” – mostly experienced online.
“Probably every politician since the beginning of time has to have the hide of a rhinoceros,” Norton says.
“You have to have very thick skin.”
The municipal election is set for May 11.