Suggestions that Jonathan Cote may (and should) run for Mayor have been bandied around for many months now, so the surprise is a little… unsurprising.
It seems like a natural progression. He has served three terms on council, and led the polls during the last two elections. His profile has been increasing, taking the lead on some of the higher-profile issues in town, and he has become the go-to Councillor when the regional press comes to New Westminster to talk about this “New New Westminster” phenomenon, and terms like (shudder) the “next Brooklyn” arise in talk about how our City is developing.
Meanwhile, not resting on his electoral popularity or media exposure, Cote has spent the last couple of years learning more about Cities while earning a Masters Degree in Urban Studies at SFU. This is the kind of thing a person might would typically do if they want to move up the ladder to a senior planning position in a City – not the standard route for a part-time City Councillor with a full time job and a young family who is thinking about politics.
That tells me a lot about what kind of guy Cote is, and one of the reasons I love that he has decided to run. He has a demonstrated work ethic, and he doesn’t come to the table assuming he knows all the answers. He instead wants to learn and find out about solutions already tested and true. I have seen him operate in committees, and he knows how to get the best out of a team and move the agenda forward. He also loves cities and the process of making them work better for the people living in them. As a Mayor, he will be able to bring a deeper understanding, and challenge staff to do better, explain better, and move the City forward.
I also like the symbolism of his run: The oldest city in the Province may have the youngest Mayor in the Province. As a bonus, that “youth” comes with significant professionalism and experience.
We don’t know what this means for Mayor Wright (at least I don’t). By all accounts, the current Mayor and Councillor Cote have worked very effectively together and have a lot of respect for each other, but there is no indication from His Worship what he intends to do in November.
I need to say, I like Mayor Wright. I have grown to appreciate his ability to move this City forward over the last decade. He has been the cheerleader this City has needed during its recent re-emergence, and has taken a few political risks that have (mostly) paid off tremendously. He’s not generally thought of as a “labour guy”, but has worked effectively with the labour-endorsed Councils he has been provided by the voters. His support in town is such that last election, when the opposition decided to run *against* him instead of *for* something else, they got beat badly. There is also something to say for the fact I am just as happy calling the Mayor “His Worship” as I am calling him “Wayne”: he is both worthy of respect, and popularly familiar.
There is an idea that the best time to pass the torch is when it is burning bright, and Mayor Wright could do much worse than passing it to Cote, but that is really the current Mayor’s decision to make. Regardless of what Wright decides to do, we can be confident the “silly season” has begun, and this will be an interesting election season!