Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, seen here at a recent housing event, has announced his plans to seek re-election this fall. File photo

Braun to seek second term as Abbotsford mayor

Abbotsford mayor feels support has grown since 2014

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun will seek a second term in this fall’s municipal election.

Braun, who will make the announcement official Friday, said he wants to implement planning work that is currently nearing completion, and that after three consecutive single-term mayors, Abbotsford could use continuity.

Braun originally intended to make the announcement later in the year. But with nine other Lower Mainland mayors declining to seek re-election, he said he has been bombarded with questions about his own plans.

When he first chose to run for the mayor’s chair four years ago, Braun said that he and his wife, Velma, agreed about the need to commit to seek at least two terms, provided both remained happy. Four years later, Braun said he is having fun and would like to continue in the role.

“It’s been an exciting time,” he said. “I really enjoy being the mayor.”

Eighty-five per cent of the job, he said, has been fun, while the other 15 per cent “comes with the territory.”

Prior to entering municipal politics, Braun, 67, had a long business career as the CEO of Pacific Northern Railworks, which was founded by his father. He retired from the company in 2003, and ran for council in 2011. Three years later, he sought the mayor’s chair.

In that 2014 election, Braun and incumbent Mayor Bruce Banman were separated by fewer than 600 votes, representing less than two per cent of ballots cast.

As a councillor, Braun made waves and caused friction with questions about the city’s direction and votes of opposition on major issues. That left even some of his friends uncertain about how he would perform as mayor, and the former CEO faced accusations from Banman that he was anti-business.

Most of that talk has since died down, and the most controversial move by council over the last four years has been the decision to ask the Agricultural Land Commission to allow the city to rezone farmland for industrial development. The pace of development around the city has also rankled some, and council decided to put a halt on small subdivisions earlier this year pending a review by staff.

Braun said that he has heard much more encouragement and offers of support this time, including from those who were reluctant to back him in 2014.

Prior to 2014, municipal politicians served three-year terms in British Columbia. While some have linked the four-year terms with this year’s mayoral retirements, Braun said he prefers the longer terms, because it allows a council to set a plan in place and follow through with it.

But he acknowledged that positive feeling may be linked to the fact that council has been generally unified on large matters, with only a couple split 5-4 votes since 2014. Similarly, the four members of the AbbotsfordFirst slate elected in 2014 haven’t always voted as a block, and have usually been in agreement with their independent counterparts.

“If you have a divided council, four years probably seems like an eternity,” he said. “Overall, I am very pleased with where our city is today and where it is going.”

Braun will release details of his election platform in the summer. But as council approves a variety of master and neighbourhood plans over the next several months, those initiatives give an indication of how Braun envisions Abbotsford growing and changing over the coming years and decades.

“Plans don’t mean anything if you can’t implement them.”

Braun isn’t sure whether a second term, should he win, would be his last. “After that, we’ll have to see,” he said. “I think three terms would be max.” But he says he has no desires to pursue office in federal or provincial politics, as some have speculated.

No one else has announced their intention to run for the mayor’s seat so far, and only Coun. Les Barkman and Dave Sidhu have publicly declared for council seats. But Braun believes his announcement may stir others to declare in the weeks to come.

Are you running for office this year? Email newsroom@abbynews.com when you choose to declare your candidacy.


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tolsen@abbynews.com

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