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St. Thomas, Ont. Mayor Joe Preston to run for second term

Courtesy Joe Preston via Facebook

St. Thomas, Ont., Mayor Joe Preston has announced his intention to run for a second term in Ontario’s fall municipal elections.

In an interview Wednesday, Preston told Global News that the early announcement was to put to rest any re-election questions. Candidates don’t have to file nomination papers until May 2.

“One of the questions I was asked almost daily was, ‘Are you running again?’ So I thought I would get that out of the way and tell people, yes, I plan to do that in the October election of this year,” he said.

“It took a lot of conversation between my wife and I. … We decided it’s about as exciting a job as I can have, so why don’t I carry on doing it?”

Read more: Ontario Liberals name former St. Thomas, Ont. mayor as candidate in Elgin—Middlesex—London

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Preston was first elected mayor of St. Thomas in 2018, beating incumbent Heather Jackson with 36 per cent of the vote to her 31 per cent. Prior to that, from 2004 until 2015, he served four terms as the Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

Reflecting on his time as a federal politician, Preston said that while he liked both, being at the local level means “you can get things done today.”

“Sometimes at the federal level of politics, it’s a bit glacial in how long it takes to actually move things forward. But as the mayor of a community like St. Thomas, you hear about something this morning and by noon you could actually have done something about it,” he said.

“Politics are different, but they’re all the same in the sense that we’ve got to work together and get along with each other in order to accomplish things,” he continued.

“I’m very pleased with what this council has been able to accomplish this term, I’d like to accomplish much more of it.”

Read more: Analysis: Rising rates to cool Ontario housing market more than pre-election promises

Among the big issues facing Preston and other municipal candidates heading into the October race is the issue of affordability, particularly when it comes to housing.

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Local house prices have shot up during the COVID-19 pandemic with low housing stock bumping up against significant demand.

According to the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors, the average price of a house in St. Thomas hit $728,860 in March, an increase of 29 per cent from March 2021, and an increase of 110 per cent from March 2019.

The only way the city will be able to handle the affordability piece, Preston said, is simply to build more housing.

“St. Thomas had not attracted market rent apartments or rental apartment buildings in a decade or more, and we in this term have started many new projects forward, some now under construction, others finished, and some are just now coming to the planning,” Preston said.

“But we’ve got to look forward and say, if St. Thomas is growing at 1,000 people a year, will we create the housing for that, 500 housing units, to be able to deal with that?”

Voters will head to the polls on Oct. 24.

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