Walter Gray wants his old job back.
After six years out of public life, the former Kelowna mayor, who served for three terms from 1996 to 2005, has announced he will run again in the Nov. 19 civic election.
And he has come out swinging.
“I do believe there should be a change on council,” Gray told the Capital News on Thursday. “We need a more progressive council.”
He will challenge incumbent Sharon Shepherd, who unseated him in the 2005 election after serving nine years as a councilor on the three councils Gray led. Shepherd announced last month that she will seek a third term.
The 71-year-old Gray said he is feeling healthier than he did six years ago when he lost to Shepherd.
And now that he has sold the Salmon Arm-based cable television company and the Kelowna radio station he co-owned, Gray said he has the time, and the desire, to get back into public life.
And he said he is not alone. “I know there are people out there who want to run (for council) but do not want to join (the current) council,” he said.
“If I run, they will run as well.”
While he did not name any of new potential candidates, their inclusion would swell an already growing field.
A total of 39 nomination packages for councillor have been picked up so far.
All the incumbent councillors, with the exception of Andre Blanleil, have announced they plan to seek re-election.
Seven people, including Shepherd, have picked up nomination packages for mayor, four of whom have made their intentions public—Shepherd, James Murphy, Kim Ouellette and Diana Van Beest.
It should be noted that not all people who take out papers end up running.
In 2008, 51 sets of papers were taken out for councillor and 36 names ended up on the ballot on election day.
In making his official announcement Thursday, Gray said strong leadership is needed on council, especially at a time like this when the economy is “continuing to lag.”
“We need to restore confidence, enthusiasm and engagement in the community. We should be creating opportunities, not canceling them or delaying good ideas indefinitely.”
Gray said he picked up nomination paper’s Wednesday and has a campaign team already in place that is ready to go.
Gray, who is about to leave Canada for a European vacation, said he plans to hit the ground running when he returns in time to file his nomination papers during the Oct. 4 to 14 nomination period.
Gray said he enters the race for mayor with the belief that strong leadership is one of the key issues in this year’s election”.
“Inactivity, procrastination and too many frivolous studies, which take up valuable staff time and add cost to taxpayers, must be corrected,” he said.
He said he will not release a campaign platform at this time, believing the mayor and council should have “a shared agenda.”
“That’s how to develop an effective team and attract good people to council and, in turn, ensure sustainability and a prosperous community,” he said.