The Mayor-elect: What’s Next?

Linda Hepner speaks about her win and plans going forward.

On Nov. 15, after an exhausting campaign that spanned almost half a year, Linda Hepner became the next Mayor of Surrey in a landslide victory. Now, in the brief period between campaigning and taking office, Mayor-elect Linda Hepner was able to sit down with The Runner to look back over her campaign and discuss her plans for the city of Surrey.

Runner: Leading up to election day, analysts predicted a close race. Instead, you came out way ahead. Did you expect to win by such a large margin?

Hepner: Our own campaign polling showed the margin almost exactly where it was, but as a candidate I chose not to believe any of the polls even though my own campaign was saying we were in pretty solid shape. And in fact they quite frankly identified the numbers within the thousand of exactly where they were. So they were confident, I was less confident. I was on the ground running every single moment of every day on the expectation that it would be every bit as tight as everybody said it was going to be.

Runner: What do you think it was about your campaign that resonated so much with voters?

Hepner: It never hurt to have the endorsement of a very popular mayor (Dianne Watts). And so when she put her confidence in [and said] ‘This is the person I think can best keep the momentum and the vision going in the direction that we created together,’ I think that resonated without question. Only an idiot would think it wouldn’t.

Runner: Despite the success of your campaign, is there anything that you would have liked to have done differently?

Hepner: I would have started a whole lot later! We started so early it was exhausting. I had never been in a campaign that started in the summer for a fall election. [In the summer] people weren’t interested and yet we were sort of forced to be out there based on what people were doing behind the scenes in other campaigns. Do I think that was a smart idea? No I don’t. I think it was an idea that simply lead to voter apathy. People were tired of it. I think [the campaign] was very, very long.

Runner: What will be item number one when you take office?

Hepner: Strengthening the police force and making sure we get those officers commissioned by the province and then the transportation issue. To those elements, I’ve already set up meetings with ministers in Victoria as well as with the Premier and others that are going to be necessary partners at the table. So I’ve made some preliminary appointments with some people who I think the significant players will be in all of those cases.

Runner: What do you expect the process will be in order to make the promised light rail system a reality?

Hepner: I think that there’s probably going to be lots of hiccups along the journey but what I am fundamentally sure will be successful is the message that we can not as a city continue to grow without that kind of connectivity. Everybody who has had an opportunity to talk about who is on the books for the next priority area [agrees that] Surrey has made it to the top of that list among all the mayors in the region. I consider that a win already. I think fundamentally what’s going to be difficult is [deciding] where that money is going to come from and whether we’ll be able to get that referendum question out and in the public area soon enough that we can get in the ground and make some significant inroads in planning and design through this 2015 year and start constructing in 2016.

Runner: What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?

Hepner: I would say the biggest challenge is keeping the current funding model and keeping the taxes low in order to create a good investment climate, at the same time as keeping up with the infrastructure needs of a growing community. In short, money.