As Lethbridge residents fill out their ballots in the 2021 municipal election, one name they won’t find is Chris Spearman.
After eight years in the mayor’s office, the city’s 25th mayor announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking a third term, paving the way for a new mayor-elect on Oct. 18.
“I’m proud of the diverse number of accomplishments that have been made in my eight years and we did that as a council,” Spearman said during an interview with Global News.
Those accomplishments include the completion of the ATB Centre, the addition of Legacy Park on the city’s north side and the construction of the downtown Park N’ Ride terminal. Lethbridge also rolled out a residential curbside recycling program in 2019.
Major thoroughfares like Whoop-Up Drive and University Drive also saw improvements completed ahead of schedule.
“We completed all these projects, taxes are going down, (and) our debt level has come down,” he added.
Reflecting on his two terms in the mayor’s chair, Spearman also said he’s proud of recent progress on truth and reconciliation with southern Alberta’s Indigenous communities, including the creation of a Reconciliation Advisory Committee.
In 2019, one of its recommendations saw the city adopt the Blackfoot word ‘Oki’ as its official greeting.
“Building credibility on issues that are important to Indigenous people — it’s important they feel part of our city and are welcomed and respected.”
The past eight years, however, were not without contentious issues.
The city saw deep divisions on topics like harm reduction and support for Lethbridge’s former supervised consumption site operated by ARCHES, which was shuttered in August 2020.
There were also differences of opinion over how the city should approach the enforcement of COVID-19 health measures like mandatory masks.
“When division persists after decisions have been made by a council that creates additional division in the community, and that certainly was a problem in the second term,” Spearman said.
As for his successor, Chris Spearman would not share who he would be supporting in the Lethbridge mayoral race.
When it comes to the two ballot questions, one on support for a ward system and the other to prioritize a third river crossing, Spearman did share his opinions.
He doesn’t believe the city is big enough yet to justify moving to a ward system for electing councillors.
As for the third bridge, he doesn’t think now is the time to pursue such a costly endeavor solely on the backs of municipal taxpayers.
“What’s the return on investment for a third bridge? What do you get for $200 million?” Spearman said.
That question among others will await a new city council once the votes are tallied.
Spearman will officially leave office on Oct. 25 when the city’s new mayor-elect is sworn in.