The mayor's seat left vacant by Ron Forsman's resignation appears to be a hot commodity.
Former mayor and councillor Bob Durston has announced his intent to run for mayor in the town's byelection scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Durston joins current councillor Murray Parrott and another former mayor in Ken Waddell on the list of candidates openly announcing they will be campaigning to lead council for the remainder of the current term.
"Today, I am announcing I will be registering as a candidate for Mayor in the byelection called for Feb. 18," Durston said in a press release Tuesday. "I am doing this after much thought about our community and our future. I have also been approached by concerned citizens that want me to be a candidate."
Durston has 29 years experience on council, 21 as a councillor and, most recently, eight as mayor from 2002-2010. That experience, Durston said, is an asset which allows him to understand the dynamics of council and how he would lead while working alongside fellow council members were he to be elected.
"People say, 'That's a long time', but it's something where you've proven your leadership to the community through council," Durston said. "If you look at other organizations in the community, many of the (influential) people have been with them for 30, 35, 40 years."
The years of council experience has led to Durston being involved in numerous town projects including the organization of the planning district committee, the completion of a new personal care home and its infrastructure system, upgrades to the fire hall and working in collaboration to bring Springhill Farms to the area.
Currently, Durston said, he sees Neepawa's water and sewer infrastructure at both the treatment plant and in the streets, as the "number one" issue for the upcoming three years.
Other issues he pointed out as needing to be addressed are expanding the housing market in Neepawa and locating land available to develop on, developing or investigating a regional firefighting agreement, planning the town's financials and reserves in case the province approves a regional hospital and maintaining relationships with surrounding communities.
The former mayor, who had been delaying his decision to run, said he had to consider if he could commit the time required to be a successful mayor. After deciding he could, Durston said he was prepared to run for the position with the community in mind.
"I have no conflict of interest, I have no association to any businesses, I have no other property than my house," Durston, a retired Ag rep, said. "If I sit in council, I will be there making decisions for the community."
Durston's announcement alongside Waddell's should bring up an interesting dynamic. In past elections, Waddell grabbed more support than Durston in 1998 to take the mayor's seat before Durston won the seat in the 2002 election.
Waddell, who held the mayor's seat from 1998-2002, announced his intent to run for the mayor's seat in December. The current publisher of The Neepawa Banner and 40-year Neepawa resident said, as mayor, he would provide guidance and leadership to council gained courtesy of his political experiences.
"I've gained some wisdom and a lot of patience (since my last term as mayor)," Waddell said when he announced. "I'd look at ways we can grow the community."
Waddell said he would hope to keep in-camera sessions to a minimum to ensure transparency in council's decisions, while he sees housing, infrastructure and ensuring the town's growth is sustainable.
Current councillor Murray Parrott has also announced his intent to run for the position. Working in the school teacher's favour will be his background with the current council's procedures, direction and daily operations.
Parrott, who grabbed the most votes of all councillors during the last election, said he has been involved in issues surrounding the development of the CN property and addressing housing shortages.
The councillor also said upgrades to Hwy 16, the Hospital, RCMP station, fire station, as well as the town's sewer and water need to be addressed, while the town needs to maintain and build on relationships with surrounding communities.
"I am committed to this community and believe strongly in building on the strengths we have, as well as addressing our challenges in a proactive and productive manner," Parrott said at the time of his announcement. "I intend to lead with integrity and make a positive difference."
In order to be eligible to run for mayor, Parrott will have to resign his seat as councillor. If, or when, he does so, the byelection may also include the election of a councillor to the vacant seat.
In their statements, all candidates have thanked outgoing mayor Forsman for his years of service to council as both councillor and mayor.