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Two-way race for mayor's chair

It’s a two-way race for St. Albert mayor, pitting an established incumbent versus a new challenger. The battle over the mayor’s chair in St.

It’s a two-way race for St. Albert mayor, pitting an established incumbent versus a new challenger.

The battle over the mayor’s chair in St. Albert pits council newcomer Shelley Biermanski against Nolan Crouse, who is completing his first term as mayor after serving one term as councillor.

Despite rumours that another candidate may emerge to challenge Crouse, Biermanski was the only one to officially file. She announced her intention to run several weeks ago.

Crouse thinks the over-arching issue, as in most municipalities, will be property taxes. But there are a few “one-off issues” like the controversial affordable housing proposal for 70 Arlington Dr. and the recently approved downtown area redevelopment plan, or DARP, which calls for higher density downtown and a reconfiguration of streets.

“There’s probably going to be issues of community development, how do we develop into the next number of years?” he said. “How do you maintain the small-town feel about the city yet allowing free enterprise to flourish?”

“We need to have good, tight fiscal accountability, responsibility and probably continue to reinforce the importance of building a strong community,” he added.

Biermanski thinks the main issue will be the level of change that people want.

“We need to find a balance between the people that want no change and the people that want extreme change,” she said.

Examples of extreme change already in the works are 25-storey towers in the downtown, she said, as allowed under DARP, which council passed a month ago. City administration is due to bring forward an implementation strategy next year.

Another example of extreme change is moving toward high density in established neighbourhoods, Biermanski said, as set out in the city’s infill guidelines.

“I intend to listen to people and the input of the people is what’s important to me,” she said. “That’s the reason why I’m running for mayor. I feel that’s been ignored. That’s what I hear from the people that I represent.”

“Hopefully I can represent all of us no matter what the cause, not just the ones that believe in my causes,” she added.

When asked to clarify whether she’s running as a representative of a particular group, Biermanski said she represents herself.

“I represent a resident of St. Albert that’s lived here 21 years and likes a lot of things about the city the way they are and doesn’t want to see specific things change and wants some say in what happens,” she said.

Biermanski also said she intends to stand up for services in St. Albert.

“I don’t believe in excessive spending but I do believe in providing all the services for people,” she said.

Crouse is often introduced as Alberta’s hardest working mayor when he appears at community functions.

Biermanski has been hearing the opinion that Crouse is the front-runner but isn’t hearing that from everyone.

“I’m just going to do my best,” she said. “People always say the incumbent’s favoured but there’s been a lot of surprises throughout the years too.”

Crouse said he won’t be actively campaigning this time around, other than purchasing traditional advertising. People in municipal circles still talk about the campaign he ran in 2007 when he knocked on nearly every door in St. Albert.

He later clarified that he spent time in the summer door-knocking and will be ramping up his events attendance in the run-up to the election. He’s also getting his message out through emails and letters.

“I am clearly campaigning and will do my job and campaign parallel,” he said.

“I will continue to be the mayor as best I can for the next 28 days and people will have to judge,” he said. “Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a community builder so I think that message would be strong.”

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