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Accomplishments, broken promises: local columnist reflects on Surrey mayor's tenure

Linda Hepner speaking at Surrey City Hall. (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Local columnist reflects on Linda Hepner's legacy, which he says is marked by broken promises, some accomplishments

'She's been very different than Dianne Watts, I think much less effective,' columnist says of Surrey mayor Linda Hepner

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Surrey’s mayor is giving her final “State of the City” address Wednesday morning, before stepping aside after next month’s election.

So how did Linda Hepner do in her single term at the helm?

A long-time columnist, who has been following her performance closely over the last four years, doesn’t give her a letter or percentage grade. However, he does compare Hepner to her predecessor — quite bluntly.

“She’s been very different than Dianne Watts, I think much less effective,” columnist Frank Bucholtz tells NEWS 1130. “There’s a number of reasons for that.”

He points out Watts ran as an independant and had to drum up support.

“[Hepner] was elected mayor by a large majority. I think a lot of that had to do with Dianne Watts’ campaigning for, particularly, an electronic media in the last week of the campaign.

So she didn’t have to work as hard as Watts, he says, adding she basically rode her predecessor’s coattails.

“And as a result she didn’t really have to work her way into the job in the way that Dianne Watts did and she’s also a very different personality.”

Hepner’s┬ácouncil members were all from the same slate, which at times didn’t help her, Bucholtz explains. That, he believes, is especially true when there were cries for a municipal police department in the wake of high-profile violence around Surrey.

“I think it’s only in the last few months, as we’ve had a number of really brazen murders that some of the candidates seeking to replace her are talking about a Surrey police force, and really the discussion should have started a long time ago,” he says.

Bucholtz admits violence is a difficult issue for any mayor to tackle, because it goes “beyond city borders.” While he says Hepner did say all the right things when something serious happened, and points out the number of hires her council made in an attempt to address the issue, Bucholtz adds there really hasn’t been much change.

So what more could have been done? Bucholtz says there needed to be a discussion, which also highlights the issue of having a council made up of one slate, he says.

“I mean she really didn’t want council to discuss things in public. She didn’t want them to bring up issues that weren’t comfortable. The discussion on policing should have been taking place under Dianne Watts’ tenure, and it certainly should have been taking place in the four years that she’s been the mayor, and it really hasn’t happened until the last couple months and it’s just an election issue.”

On what legacy Hepner will be leaving, Bucholtz says she did push hard for LRT. She promised it would be in place and running by this year — but that did not happen.

She also pushed for development in the city centre area, and Bucholtz gives her credit for it.

“In terms of democracy and openness, and taking the city to another level in terms of governance, I can’t say that I see that she’s done anything,” he says. “I think we’ve gone a bit backwards in that regard.”

While he believes she did do some good, he says she doesn’t really leave behind anything that can be called a Linda Hepner initiative.

Election day is Saturday, Oct. 20.

-With files from John Ackermann