Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun won’t seek re-election
‘I think it’s probably time for me to pass the torch to someone else,’ Braun says after declaring he won‘t seek third term
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun won’t seek re-election this fall.
Six months after leading his city through disaster, Braun announced his decision to his council colleagues Monday evening after a long meeting involving major decisions on the future of Sumas Prairie and the plan to guide development on McKee Peak. He posted an extended statement on Facebook soon after.
While the announcement will surprise some, Braun told The Current that he considered a third term an unlikely prospect when he first ran for the mayor’s chair eight years ago.
“I said ‘If I do this, I have to run for two terms; I think the city needs at least a two-term mayor,’” he said. (Abbotsford hadn’t re-elected a mayor for 15 years; Braun’s then-opponent, Bruce Banman, was seeking a second term.) “Three [terms] would be optional, but not likely.”
Last November’s flooding, however, made the choice more difficult than it would otherwise have been, he said.
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A post-flood plan (and decision)
On Monday, the city approved a preferred plan to try to mitigate future Nooksack River floods. That plan (we will have more on that in the weeks to come) will cost billions of dollars to complete. Braun said whether or not it comes to fruition will depend largely on whether the provincial and federal governments provide the necessary funding.
There won’t be much more for council to do on the issue after the plan is completed, Braun said.
“If council deals with this plan and approves it and then puts a bow around it and sends it off to Victoria and, by extension, to the federal government, after that, it’s up to the federal and provincial governments,” he said. “The plan is not worth much if we don’t get the money to do what the plan recommends, and I really do believe that both levels of government are going to come to our side.”
Braun said he doesn’t intend to endorse a candidate this fall. So far only one sitting councillor, Les Barkman, has publicly announced his plans for this fall, and no one has declared they intend to run for mayor.
“I will stay out of the election,” Braun said. “The only time I might get involved is if [a candidate] misrepresents the work of council. … I would probably set the record straight, but apart from that, it’s not fair.”
Braun also confirmed that he has no intention of running at the provincial or federal level.
After a long career in business heading his family’s railway construction business, Braun served one term as councillor before beating Banman for Abbotsford’s mayor chair in 2014. Easily re-elected four years later, Braun’s term in office was focused on financial management: the city consistently ran surpluses and increased its reserves for infrastructure improvements. As the city’s financial clout grew, Braun’s council created a series of long-term plans, though it will fall to future councils to actually spend the money amassed. The city also adopted a new official community plan and follow-up neighbourhood and infrastructure plans. (The OCP project was launched during the term of Banman, now an Abbotsford MLA.)
During Braun’s time, split votes were rare among Abbotsford council, and heated debate almost entirely absent from the council table, at least in public. The consensus Braun built with council reflected general agreement on the direction the city should be moving. The main questions have revolved around the pace of change and progress, and whether the city’s spending and actions are enough to meet the ambitions and goals it has set for itself in documents like its Official Community Plan.
After making few provincial headlines during his first seven years in office, Braun’s no-sudden-moves disposition was challenged in November when water flooded north. Thrust into the national spotlight, Braun drew praise for his plain-spoken press conferences and willingness to show emotion in front of cameras.
While November is receding into the past, the impacts, and memories will linger for years.
In a departure statement, Braun hailed the efforts of city staff and council last year: “I don’t know that I’ll ever find the right words to express how much I appreciate the hard work and commitment of my Abbotsford City council colleagues, especially during the November flood.”
Braun is keeping his eye on the Fraser, and is still worried about the danger that local rivers will pose to the valley’s sub-standard flood protections.
He’s also, though, keeping an eye on his own future, and the time he’ll be able to spend with his grandchildren. Braun told The Current he has no major post-mayoralty plans, save for visiting with family and spending a couple weeks at his ranch in the Interior.
“I think it’s probably time for me to pass the torch to someone else.”