By Merv Unger
Leonard Krog made it official Wednesday, he
is in the race to become mayor of Nanaimo. he made the announcement Wednesday in front of a jam-packed crowd at the Coast Bastion Inn.
I sat down with Leonard – as he likes to be called – to discuss the move from the Legislature to
city hall, specifically the mayor’s job. What stood out was the support he received from across the political spectrum that encouraged, even pressured him to run.
This is not a spur-of-the-moment decision. Leonard and I briefly kicked around the
idea of running for mayor 15 months ago, and then on and off over time. He had numerous discussions with other supporters from across the political spectrum as well. But there was nothing substantive until recently.
City Hall has been in constant
turmoil, but it finally came to decision time – could he make a difference? Council has been beset by fighting, the loss of numerous senior employees, RCMP investigations and the appointment of two special prosecutors. Nanaimo has become a laughingstock
to the rest of the country.
This is a major career shift after 18 years in the B.C. Legislature as MLA for two ridings – Nanaimo-Parksville from 1991 to 1996 and then for Nanaimo from 2005 until the present.
He says his switch to municipal
politics is not a commentary on his role in the Legislature, it was simply that the time was right; Nanaimo needs someone with experience to step in and re-establish the role of the mayor, city council and operations of the city.
He believes his years
as an MLA, his law practice and extensive community involvement give him the background that a mayor needs. During his entire term as an MLA he’s never been hard to find, a constant presence at local events, issues and activities.
Nanaimo needs someone who will bring all people together for change – he’s not doing it for his ego or just to get another job.
Krog emphasizes his run for the mayor’s job is not a statement about other candidates in the running for
the job. He recognizes that after the past four years there is the distinct possibility of wholesale turnover on city council, and that brings home the need for first getting a new and experienced city manager and focusing on training new councillors Many
people with good intentions and skills may not be ready to immediately drive an agenda for progress.
The new council will have to rely on expertise of a city staff which needs to be rebuilt after the turmoil and many departures in recent years. He’s
also taking a novel approach that involves past council members and previous management staff of the city. He believes they have a lot to offer. People have lost confidence in elected officials, and he wants to rebuild that, adding Nanaimo has all the ingredients
but recently the cooks have been spoiling the broth with internal wrangling and bullying.
Beyond the immediate steps, Krog wants to bring a long-range vision, because in his view, Nanaimo has all the ingredients to become a first-rate city in the province.
The city does not have to take a back seat to Victoria, we just need to have direction and communication to bring people together. He points to Nanaimo’s geography, climate, the university, regional hospital, the Port of Nanaimo and other infrastructure.
The city’s top assets include its motivated citizens – from young people to retirees – all of whom want to be safe and secure and live happy lives here. That means building a community where people are born, achieve, and are educated so
they can prosper and succeed here instead of having to relocate somewhere else.
He doesn’t have instant solutions to the housing crisis, believing city council has to deal with the development community to make it attractive to build here.
And council must keep pestering higher levels of government for help.
The past four years have revolved around wasted opportunity but he sees a light at the end of the tunnel. What’s striking when talking to him is that he sees no immediate
bed of roses, noting there will be tough sledding ahead to repair the damage. His vision of what can be accomplished is basic but appears genuine and realistic.
There’s a sense of community and encouragement, of participation and motivation for
people to become involved. He believes Nanaimo residents want a public service they can trust and respect. And he senses a feeling of civic duty from across the political spectrum, adding he’s not representing any political group, but wants to be mayor
for all of the people in this city. That’s borne out in his theme of bringing people together for change by electing a team with good leadership.
Leonard and his wife Sharon are hometown kids, both having been born in Nanaimo, as were their children
and grand children. As he says, the Krogs have “skin in this game”.
He will resign from the Legislature if and when he wins the mayoralty. He will not collect his MLA salary once the official campaign period begins, about a month before
the civic election.