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Former councillor, Bob Russell, enters mayoral race

Russell, who has served five terms as a city councillor, said if elected he would like to focus on transparency, cutting city spending, and increasing the number of smaller homes in St. Albert.
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Five-term former councillor Bob Russell has decided to run against incumbent Cathy Heron in St. Albert's mayoral race. FILE/Photo

A second candidate has announced he is running for mayor in St. Albert’s Oct. 18 municipal election. 

Bob Russell has served five terms as a councillor, most recently after a by-election in 2015. Now, the 90-year-old wants to run for mayor against incumbent Cathy Heron. 

“Nobody had stepped up to oppose the current mayor,” Russell said. “I think somebody should, and I’ve been waiting for somebody to step in and do it.”

After speaking with fellow St. Albertans, Russell said he had heard many voice dissatisfaction about the current council’s transparency. 

“The in-camera meetings are bothering people,” Russell said. “So are the plans for the solar farm.”

After hearing the city’s estimated cost of between $15.5 million to $25 million for remediation of the salt-contaminated city-owned Badger Lands, the site the city is eyeing for a solar farm, Russell said he had been concerned. 

“It didn’t seem they’d done their homework,” Russell said. “I don’t want to beat this issue to death, but it’s a big issue with ratepayers.”

In addition to working to increase transparency, Russell said cutting city-spending would also be his top priority if elected. 

One example Russell gave was the $145,154 St. Albert contributed as part of a regional ask to raise $15 million to attract international flights back to Edmonton amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to bring spending to a grinding halt,” he said. “Council shouldn’t approve anything until they have examined it carefully, and it has to be supported by documents that make sense and are authentic.”

Russell also said ensuring more smaller houses are built in St. Albert would be something he would prioritize. 

“We need more great starter homes,” Russell said. “If I’m elected, one of the first groups I would want to meet with would be the St. Albert Housing Society.”

Creating a Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) is also something Russell would want to enact if elected as mayor, he said. Russell argued the establishment of an MPC in St. Albert would allow for more transparency when it comes to new development in the city. 

“Meetings would be in public, and the process would be very democratic,” Russell said. “There would be five members, they would name their own chair, and developers would have to appear before them and convince them if they want zoning changed. You couldn’t come through the side door to city administration to do that.”

Ultimately, Russell said his experience as a city councillor makes him well-equipped to address the items he outlined. 

“There are a lot of issues that need to be tackled,” Russell said. 

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