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Veteran Saint John Councillor MacKenzie readies for deputy mayor role

Saint John Ward 2 Councillor John MacKenzie won a three-councillor race to be named the city's deputy mayor in a vote held June 21, 2021. Tim Roszell/Global News

Saint John Ward 2 councillor John MacKenzie is the city’s new deputy mayor following a vote by fellow councillors Monday.

The retired Canada Post employee is beginning his third council term after first being elected in 2012.

“I think the experience that I had being chairman of the district education council for a couple of terms and the fact that I had experience both in management and union at Canada Post,” MacKenzie said.

“And the fact that I had nine years of experience on council now. I think that boded well for me.”

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MacKenzie was one of three councillors vying for the position — along with Greg Norton and David Hickey — under a new format.

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The previous council voted in March to change the way the city selects its deputy mayor by holding an election among council members. Under the previous format, the at-large councillor who garnered the most votes on election night was automatically named to the position.

First-time councillor Brent Harris expressed concerns about the new process.

He said the old format gave citizens a say in who became deputy mayor, and taking that away could contribute to already-declining voter turnout.

“We have work to do to show the public that this is a process that is worth engaging in,” Harris said. “That we are hearing them and that we respect the mandate that we’re given.

“I think the old system had that built in, where the next person in line is the person with that (deputy mayor) mandate from the public.”

The deputy mayor steps in for the mayor if they are unable to perform their duties or if they are absent from a council meeting.

MacKenzie, who was part of the council that approved the change, said it probably should have happened years ago when Common Council moved from a completely at-large voting format to the current ward system.

“I think, being the first time that we’ve done this process, is there room for improvement? Probably,” MacKenzie said. “And going forward maybe we will make some changes, but I don’t see it going back to the old way.”

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MacKenzie said his goal in his new role is to support Mayor Donna Reardon.

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“I want this council to be a huge success,” MacKenzie said. “We’ve had two previous councils that have been very successful and this one, I would like to even better.”

Harris said MacKenzie has his full backing.

“I believe he’s going to be an excellent deputy mayor,” Harris said.

Under the previous format, Harris would be in the position. He said he considered entering the race but believed the process created a distraction for the new council.

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