Two-term Saint John councillor Donna Reardon launches bid for mayor's seat

·4 min read
Medical practice administrator, dietician, and two-term councillor Donna Reardon was one of three people officially running for mayor of Saint John as of Monday afternoon. Nominations close April 9. (Submitted by Donna Reardon - image credit)
Medical practice administrator, dietician, and two-term councillor Donna Reardon was one of three people officially running for mayor of Saint John as of Monday afternoon. Nominations close April 9. (Submitted by Donna Reardon - image credit)

With six weeks to go before municipal elections, just one current member of Saint John council has announced she is running for mayor.

Donna Reardon says when she heard Don Darling wasn't reoffering, she thought it might be time to take the next step.

"I have made, I think, a significant investment in Saint John in nine years."

"I've got the background. I've got the experience."

Reardon said she asked her fellow councillors for feedback and they told her to "go for it."

"So here I am," she said.

Reardon is a trained dietician by profession, and works as the administrator at her husband's medical practice.

She was first elected to council in 2012 and is about to conclude her second term as the representative for Ward 3.

"I feel like I know the ropes. I feel like I understand the priorities," she said.

"We've made a lot of very difficult moves on the chessboard."

"From my perspective of being in the trenches, we've turned a corner — a significant one."

Reardon said she wants to "keep on that road."

The city is in a relatively good position for pandemic recovery right now, she said, because of the cost-cutting measures it has taken in recent years.

"Because we were looking at a much leaner operation, the impacts haven't been as great."

Nevertheless, she points out that a review of agencies, boards and commissions is ongoing.

They're being looked at "with a fine tooth comb," she said, to make sure they're working.

"Everything is being looked at."

Due to the pandemic, Saint John mayoral candidate Donna Reardon has been walking around the city with a campaign sign instead of knocking on doors.
Due to the pandemic, Saint John mayoral candidate Donna Reardon has been walking around the city with a campaign sign instead of knocking on doors.(Donna Reardon/Twitter)

So far, Reardon said she's been getting a good reception from people as she walks around the city.

She's carrying campaign signs, but not knocking on doors because of COVID, even though provincial election rules do permit that.

"I've met a lot of people. We've had a lot of thumbs up, a few beeps"

Reardon says her priorities for the next term are growth, prosperity, quality of life and financial stability.

"You really need to look at what brings people to your city," she said.

She's a longtime proponent of active transportation.

"No one checks your pavement index and says, I think I'll move there. They look at a more holistic city. What can you provide for the time off when they're not working? And how would they integrate that into their life and raising a family? Et cetera"

Reardon was one of the councillors who spoke in favour of a heavy truck tax last spring, to help pay for repairs to beat up roads. It was eventually defeated.

Roads represent a huge expense to the city, she said, simply because of its geographic size.

Meanwhile, road spending doesn't get the same return on investment analysis as other categories of city spending, she said.

"We do need them. But how do we get the biggest bang for our buck?"

Partnerships are key to moving the city forward, said Reardon, as well as councillors who are willing to do their homework and be strong leaders.

"You need a team that's going to read the documentation that they're given and make those tough decisions."

The past two councils have had those things, she said.

"Everything we did, we did as a team. ... That's integral to being successful."

Reardon said she sees the mayor's role as pulling the team together, setting out expectations and finding out how council and staff can work together toward long-term goals.

Another priority of hers is regional cooperation.

"I like to think of us as a hub of a wheel and all of those spokes strengthen us."

"We need to make sure that we group them in with our success. And how do we communicate with that group and how do we build a bigger team there?"

Other key partners include: the university, the federal government, the port, and the province, she said.

"So, it's aligning with some of those visions, as well. And just going after them."

Saint John has some of the highest poverty rates in the province. Part of the city's role in addressing that includes advocating for citizens, said Reardon.

She's also interested in supporting developments, such as affordable housing projects, possibly on derelict properties.

"Can we get those and build a land bank with them and put pieces together for affordable housing or for any development? ... There's lots of things that can be done, I think."

But she's not promising anything overnight.

Two other people have also registered as candidates for mayor of Saint John. Darrell Edward Bastarache and Howard A Yeomans are scheduled to speak with CBC later this week.