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Two high-profile candidates may run for Chilliwack mayor

Former mayor and MLA John Les (left) and former NDP MLA Gwen O
Former mayor and MLA John Les (left) and former NDP MLA Gwen O'Mahony (right) are both considering a run for the Chilliwack mayor's office this November. Sharon Gaetz has not yet announced whether she will run for a third term.
— image credit: Files

Chilliwack residents will have a chance to elect a new city council six months from today and, for the first time in six years, maybe a new mayor.

Two high-profile names with experience in elected office are considering a run for the top job at city hall—a job popular Mayor Sharon Gaetz won by acclamation in 2011.

How does Mayor Gwen O’Mahony sound?

Or maybe Mayor John Les?

Both O’Mahony and Les confirmed to the Times this week the truth to the persistent rumour that they are pondering a run for mayor.

“I have been talking to community members and I have been asked by a number of people if I was interested in running for mayor,” O’Mahony said Monday.

O’Mahony served for a year as NDP MLA for the Chilliwack-Hope riding. She won a byelection in April 2012 forced when longtime BC Liberal MLA Barry Penner stepped down.

O’Mahony beat Liberal candidate Laurie Throness in 2012, but then lost the seat to Throness in the general election in 2013.

She also ran for the NDP provincially in 2009 and federally in 2011, where she finished a distant second to Conservative Mark Strahl.

Les may be most known to younger residents as the longtime BC Liberal MLA for Chilliwack, but he also served as mayor from 1987 to 1999.

Les said he’s been asked repeatedly over the past several months if he would consider running.

“I thought I was done with politics, and running again was about the farthest thing from my mind, but have to admit the potential of having the honour to be mayor again is intriguing, particularly as I am aware of a number of areas where I think Chilliwack can do so much better.”

He said he’s not yet made a decision but he’s taking some time to consult with voters and community leaders. “Time will tell,” he said.

O’Mahony said she has seen and heard an increasing number of voices disappointed by decisions at city hall.

“The turning point was the tearing down of the Paramount and from there the chlorination of the water, the increase in taxes again, and by the time we came across the decision made for the hazardous waste recycling facility, I think that people just really got infuriated,” she said.

Despite it all, O’Mahony said she is really just in listening mode, considering what it would take to run for mayor. She’s been busy working on a master’s degree and she knows just how much hard work a serious campaign is.

She said she hasn’t made a decision as the election still a long time off.

“Time will tell,” she said, echoing Les’s words.

For her part, Gaetz would not say whether she would run for a third term or not, telling the Times that she wanted to inform the rest of city council first and that she would send out a press release soon.

Interest in municipal politics has been buzzing on a number of Chilliwack-focused Facebook pages in recent weeks and months.

And just six days ago, Jennifer Woodroff (who served as constituency assistant to O’Mahony when she was MLA) created a Facebook page entitled Chilliwack Decides 2014, called “A public forum for discussing issues important to residents of Chilliwack in advance of the 2014 Municipal Election.”

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