By Collin Gallant on January 11, 2017.
Ted Clugston left a luncheon crowd waiting until the very last second of the State of the City address to announce that he will seek re-election this year, even providing signals to the contrary throughout the annual event.
“There is something to be said for choosing your time (to exit),” said Clugston in his conclusion, which quoted liberally from outgoing St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse, who announced his retirement earlier this week.
“I’ve made some personal mistakes and be sure to ask the haters, because I’m sure they will remind you. But I think, professionally, we’ve done very well as a council and we have served you well.
“Barring unforeseen circumstances I will seek re-election this year.”
That line resulted in an ovation of the 300 or so attendees of the yearly Kiwanis Club-Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event at the Medicine Hat Lodge.
It was also the end of a speech that lauded senior city officials and other council members, detailed capital construction and other policy matters.
Clugston said that after major construction and budget review, the future focus should be on cementing the fiscal responsibility and rebuilding reserves.
“This city wants for nothing,” Clugston said. “I’ve lost track of all the capital construction over the past three years … but we need to realize that can’t continue.”
Speculation over Clugston’s plans in the October 2017 vote were stirred in August when council voted to halt work on developing the lot at 603 First St. Seeing a major municipally-sponsored commercial and resident block had been a major plank of his campaign, but private partners pulled out of the project, leaving council to shelve the plans.
He has maintained he wanted to let the community know his intentions well in advance of the election, allowing possible challengers to contemplate campaigns for a wide open race.
Milvia Bauman, a mayoral challenger during an adversarial campaign in 2013, attended the lunch and said she now supports the mayor.
“I’m glad that he’s not waiting until the end to make an announcement,” said Bauman. “It helps the community to know. It provides stability. He and I had our differences, and in hindsight we were fighting for the same things … I commend him for what he and council have done and I support him in the coming election.”
Clugston has also been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the provincial government — on Tuesday he called the New Democrats “incompetent” — leading to some speculation that a possible run for the legislature in 2019 might be a factor.
Questioned by the News about a possible run at provincial politics during a year-end interview, Clugston said he still hadn’t set plans.
“I’m thinking municipal (campaign) or not municipal, not in terms of municipal or provincial.”
Tuesday’s speech was squarely focused on accomplishments over the past three years, but delved into personal and philosophical matters.
Later he told reporters he wanted to fully explain his decision-making process to the crowd, and that he wrestled with the decision.
“I’ve had a tough go over the last few years, and I have teenaged boys whose father works a lot,” he told reporters afterwards. “But I still have some things to do.”
In 2015, Clugston pleaded guilty to impaired driving charges, and has often complained he has been hounded on social media by some residents.
Clugston’s younger brother Tim died last spring after several years of poor health.
Within his speech he said he had detractors and has often said the spotlight of the position had been difficult for his other family members.
On Tuesday, the crowd included Clugston’s immediate family and some family friends leading to pre-lunch speculation that an announcement would be made.
In 2013, the two-term alderman won a majority mandate from voters, placing ahead of alderman Phil Turnbull, Bauman and incumbent Norm Boucher.
At that time Clugston said he was encouraged by the makeup of the incoming council and on Tuesday said the group had courage to tackle controversial issues, such as reigning in spending, closing the Medicine Hat Arena and Heald Pool, committing to removing energy dividends from operating budgets.
He said remaining items on the to-do list were the completion of a new seniors’ centre, speed limit review and upcoming budget vote.
“The most important thing is to make sure the financial house is in order,” he said.
Note: This story has been updated to correct the year of Clugston’s guilty plea to impaired driving charges.
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