It might have been the worst-kept secret in Saskatoon, but on Wednesday, Coun. Charlie Clark made it official he’s running for mayor in the fall civic election.
The 10-year council veteran hopes to unseat incumbent Mayor Don Atchison, the city’s longest-serving mayor when voters head to the polls Oct. 26.
Amid a packed, cheering crowd in a small room of the Bessborough Hotel and with his family at his side – including his mother who traveled from Kelowna – Clark laid out what would be his four biggest priorities if elected.
He said he would focus on providing efficient services while keeping taxes low, designing smart growth methods that pay for themselves, diversifying the economy to attract investment, and building safe, more connected neighbourhoods.
“My experience as a city councillor has made it so clear to me that we have all the elements in place right here in Saskatoon to become a model prairie city for the 21st century,” Clark said in his speech.
Though he said he respects Atchison, he believes a mayor should have a more active role in setting the tone of balanced city growth.
“Mr. Atchison has talked about it but I invite you to ask what has he actually done about it?” he said. “You don’t create a city by just building buildings and bridges and giving speeches.”
Clark pointed to the city’s current Growth Plan to Half a Million People as a blueprint which is currently “just words on a page” and requires active leadership to implement.
He said he doesn’t wish to see the city bogged down in expensive infrastructure costs like Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive project which began in 2000 and is in its final stage of construction.
Clark stressed his campaign would seek to unite the various local interest groups, including drivers, cyclists and urban and suburban residents.
“My Saskatoon is not a city of divided camps and simplistic labels,” Clark said.
Clark currently represents Ward 6, which covers the Buena Vista, Downtown, Grosvenor Park, Haultain, Holliston, Nutana, and Varsity View neighbourhoods. He has mainly worked as a mediator and an instructor in conflict resolution before going into politics.
Along with a bachelor’s degree and a certificate in conflict resolution, Clark has a master’s degree in environmental studies.
If elected, Clark would be the youngest mayor since Sid Buckwold who was 41 when he was elected in 1958.
Clark supported the introduction of bike lanes in the downtown core and has pushed for better transit, greater city infill and more innovative, relationship-building policing.
“Safe neighbourhoods are not created by trying to arrest your way out of crime.” Clark said Wednesday, eliciting a large cheer from the crowd.
Unlike Atchison, who has thrown his full support behind a downtown arena, Clark said he would like more thoughtful discussion before coming to a decision. He is also unsure about the location a new central recreation facility, which could be added to the White Buffalo Youth Lodge.
Clark said he will release specifics of his platform in the coming months.
Atchison has already announced his intention to seek a fifth term.
In 2012, Atchison narrowly took the vote with 52.1 per cent over fellow candidate Tom Wolf.