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With Gray out, who wants in

For the first time since 1996 Kelowna voters will face a municipal election without an incumbent mayor on the ballot.

That was made official late Tuesday night when current mayor Walter Gray, as expected, announced he would not seek another term when election day rolls around Nov 15, 2014. 

Ironically, it was Gray who was elected mayor back in 1996 replacing Jim Stuart who stepped down after 10 years in the mayor's chair.

Since then Gray (three terms), Sharon Shepherd (two terms) and Gray again (last three years) have occupied the city's top elected seat.

While a lot can still happen between now and the election day eight months from now - four names have surfaced as possible candidates to replace Gray.

Current councillors Colin Basran and Gail Given are both giving a run serious consideration, former councillor Carol Gran has indicated she is contemplating a run for either council or mayor while Shepherd, who lost a close election to Gray in 2011 admits she is being asked to run but is non-committal.

"Today I think is a time for people to thank Walter for his many years of political service," Shepherd offered Wednesday morning.

"I sat on council with him for nine years...he has dedicated a lot of time to the community and I think that's what this day should be really about. As for myself personally I have made no decision, I have been very involved with family and business."

Shepherd says she has been asked regularly since last election whether she will run again.

"The last election was a very close election and I know there was a lot of support - what I hear in the community people are out there asking me to consider coming back.

It will be a tough decision for whether I decide to run or not - I'm getting asked about other levels of government as well and other business initiatives as well. There's lots to think about."

Gran, who served on council from 2005 through 2008 and came in ninth in elections three years ago says she is seriously considering running for council again in November.

She says the possibility of running for mayor is also one she is contemplating although she has not yet made a decision.

The interesting dynamic involves Basran and Given.

Both were brought into power in a wave of change that saw five new councillors and a new mayor elected in 2011.

"I am certainly interested and looking into it," says Basran.

"I guess my next step now that we know Walter is no longer running would be to gauge the community. I'll be talking to members of our community to see if I have some support there."

Basran says he has enjoyed his nearly three years on council so far but admits it's both a big decision and a big risk.

"If I run for mayor and I'm unsuccessful I'm now on the outside looking in for four years. It's something I really want to be careful and weigh and by gauging the community support a little longer it certainly isn't a bad thing."

Part of that process, according to Basran, is the intentions of Given.

"It's my personal belief that we shouldn't have two members from council run. Gail and myself would have to have some conversations - at least that's my belief, her's may be different," says Basran.

"I certainly wouldn't want to see two members from council run. It may come down to her and I having a conversation and deciding amongst ourselves who is the best person for Kelowna."

While Given agrees it's not the best scenario to have two current councillor run, she says it shouldn't be the deciding factor.

"No matter how you slice it it's an election - we could potentially lose all of us. The minute arrogance gets into it I think you start making bad decisions," says Given.

"I will make my decision based on myself and my perceived level of support in the community. If any other really dynamic leaders show up maybe I will defer, I don't know."

Given says she has not made a final decision but is leaning about 80 per cent toward running.

A few months ago Given had all but dismissed a bid for the mayor's chair but says two factors have helped to sway her in the opposite direction.

One of those is family and the fact her youngest will have graduated from a welding program before the next election meaning she would have the time to devote to the position.

"The second thing was serving as deputy mayor for two weeks when Walter was away really opened my mind to the possibilities," says Given.

"It certainly sparked my interest far more than in the past."

Meantime, at least two fellow councillors believe one or the other should run - not both.

"My personal opinion, no," stated Andre Blanleil when asked if both should run.

"I think it would be better if one of the two decided to run, the other one stepped back, that way the council of the day could support whoever is there. You always get caught in the middle as a City Council when two people are running from the same council. Then it really does become silly season."

Blanleil refused to say which of the two he is throwing his support behind.

Councillor Luke Stack, who briefly contemplated a mayoralty run, agrees only one should run.

"It's my hope that one would step aside. I'm really hoping that from our council one person will step forward and take the lead but we'll see how that plays out over the next few months," says Stack who was not shy about who he would like to see run.

"It would be Gail. I think she's got the right stuff to be an excellent mayor and I'm sort of hoping that's how it will shape up."

On the council side it is believed Robert Hobson will not seek another term while Gerry Zimmermann is leaning that way.

Blanleil has not made a decision as of yet, Mohini Singh wants to and hopes to but needs to make sure her 'family is in a good place,' while Maxine DeHart is 'considering running again' but says with terms moving to four years from three will need to give it more thought.

Incumbents typically don't announce their intentions until later in the spring or summer.

 

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