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‘It’s time to retire’: Lethbridge mayor announces he won’t seek re-election

Click to play video 'Chris Spearman announces retirement after nearly 8 years as mayor of Lethbridge' Chris Spearman announces retirement after nearly 8 years as mayor of Lethbridge
There will be a new mayor come fall in Lethbridge, following the end of Chris Spearman’s term in office. Eloise Therien has the details on why he made the decision to retire now and his plans for the future. – Jan 7, 2021

Mayor Chris Spearman announced Thursday he will not be seeking re-election in Lethbridge in the next municipal election on Oct. 18, 2021.

The primary reason for his departure is retirement. Spearman says he is “beyond the normal retirement age” and hopes to focus on family moving forward.

He says he’s been thinking about this decision for about six months and wanted to share the news now to give prospective candidates adequate time to prepare.

“For me to contemplate another term probably isn’t fair to me, my family, and (I think) maybe Lethbridge needs a change too,” Spearman admitted.

“I’m looking forward to having more control of my free time.”

Read more: Lethbridge election 2017: Chris Spearman wins another term

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In 2010, Spearman ran for mayor, but was outvoted by Rajko Dodic by just one per cent.

However, the following election in 2013 would yield a more favourable outcome for Spearman, as he would defeat three other candidates to earn the position, receiving a respectable 45.4 per cent of the vote, with Bridget Mearns coming in second with 29.5 per cent.

In 2017, nearly three quarters of those who voted chose Spearman, in what would be his last term as mayor.

Over the past seven years, Spearman says there have been many highlights, such as the construction of the ATB Centre in west Lethbridge, the opening of a new Cavendish Farms frozen potato plant, improvements to downtown and other developments within the city.

Read more: Lethbridge elects new mayor: Chris Spearman

However, he says his main regret is not being able to solve the social issues that have plagued the area for years.

“For my entire service as mayor, we’ve been asking for intox services, detox services, supported housing, and really haven’t gotten anything of significance from any provincial government,” Spearman said.

“We’ll never solve homeless problems and addictions problems in our city without that kind of cooperation.”

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Lethbridge-west MLA Shannon Phillips says she understands Spearman’s regrets and feels more could be done looking back.

“I think Chris is right. When we were in government, we could have potentially moved things a little faster, now that we know what we know,” Phillips said.

She adds seeing Spearman grow into his role has been a pleasure.

“I think the true mark of leadership is when you are doing the right thing, for the right reasons, and your heart is in it and your intellect is in it, and Chris Spearman did all of those things.”

Read more: Alberta mayors reiterate opposition to EMS consolidation, appeal to Kenney to intervene

Nathan Neodorf, MLA for east Lethbridge, was not available for interview, but released the following statement regarding Spearman’s decision to leave office:

“I would like to thank Mayor Spearman for his years of service to the City of Lethbridge.

“Public office has become ever more polarized in our society and it is no easy feat to stand in front of constituents for every decision made. I wish him nothing but the best and I hope his retirement is all he hopes it will be.”

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“Right from the beginning, Mayor Spearman was collaborative,” said Cyndi Vos, CEO for the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.

“He was very open [to] dialogue,” she said. “If there was something that we needed to talk about or wanted to talk about or connect on, he was really willing to set that up and get that going for us.”

Read more: Cavendish Farms opens new frozen potato plant in Lethbridge

Vos adds having a good connection with the mayor helped the business community.

“It’s important for the mayor to stay connected with different organizations because the mayor is the face of the city.”

Spearman says he will continue in his position until the fall, when new candidates will run for the job.

“There’s been lots of controversy over the last few terms — the last term — about how we deal with social issues in the city,” he said. “I think anybody running for city council in any capacity should have an idea and a vision about how to deal with those.”

Spearman looks forward to being able to see his sons abroad once pandemic restrictions are no longer in place.