With the next municipal election more than a year away, one candidate has already announced his intentions … sort of.
Local businessman Jeff Bultje, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2014, said recently he wants to seek the position again in 2018 – if no other qualified candidates sign up.
“If somebody better comes along, they can take my spot,” he said.
Bultje, whose family has built homes in Chatham-Kent for more than three decades, said he wanted to let other potential candidates know early on what he intended to do.
“I don’t want seven people running next time,” he said, referring to the number of mayoral candidates who ran in 2014, splitting the vote. “Somebody’s going to win with like 24 per cent of the vote. I think that’s just lousy for everybody.”
Running in 2014 were Randy Hope, who was re-elected with about 29 per cent of the vote, Bultje, Marjorie Crew, Steve Brent, Ian McLarty, Reno Lachapelle, and John Willatt.
Next year, the time frame for candidates to register is from May 1 to July 27, 2018, a tighter window than in 2014 when candidates had between January and August to register.
That shorter window this time around is a huge reason Bultje wanted to make his plans known so far in advance.
“If anybody is planning on running, they’ll gear up way before that,” Bultje said of the May 1 opening date for registering. “You won’t know who’s running until the registration date and all of a sudden you have six to eight people running and we’ll have the same situation as last time.”
Despite his willingness to step aside if someone better, in Bultje’s eyes, comes along, he said he owes it to his supporters to take a second shot at the mayor’s seat.
“I promised my campaign people. They said, ‘If you’re going to run once, you have to run twice, as it’s difficult to defeat an incumbent your first time,’” he said. “They wanted the commitment to try the second time as well.”
As for why he wants to run again, Bultje said nothing has changed at the Civic Centre. He believes municipal government should stay out of meddling in the private sector.
“Stop being a partner in things you shouldn’t be a partner in. Take care of the roads, sidewalks and bridges,” he said.
Bultje pointed to the recent Water Wells First protest outside the Civic Centre, where rural residents with drinking water issues want municipal support in finding the root of the problem. But the municipality has some partnership in various wind farms in Chatham-Kent, including a 15 per cent equity stake in North Kent 1 wind turbine project.
“Who’s representing those people protesting in front of the Civic Centre,” he asked. “The city can’t; it’s got 15 per cent ownership in the wind project.”
He understands the revenue potential from the turbines is enticing for a municipality, but added running a city is not all about dollars and cents.
“Sometimes things seem like a good idea, but you really have to stay focused on your mission statement – do what you’re supposed to do, not what you’re not supposed to do.”
Meanwhile, if someone comes along that Bultje thinks is a better choice than he is for mayor, he reiterated he would step aside.
“I’m having a great time building houses around here too,” the co-owner of Multi Homes said. “We’re booking into the summer of next year already.”
The hot real estate market is keeping everyone busy. He said the challenge for homebuilders is to find skilled labour.
“There is such a shortage. It’s pretty hard to get people in. You can go an hour away and people are getting paid 30 to 40 per cent more,” he said.