Sackville will get a new mayor in 2020.
John Higham has announced he will not seek re-election in the upcoming municipal election.
Higham, who was elected mayor in May 2016 with more than 80 per cent of the vote, said his intent was always to serve only one term and, despite many requests, he will hold true to that and will not be re-offering in the spring.
“I had made a commitment that I would do one term as mayor and I’m going to keep that commitment,” said Higham.
He said it’s been challenging to balance his family and work responsibilities on top of his mayoralty duties and he said it isn’t fair to the Sackville residents or himself to keep up with that hectic schedule.
Higham, who has led a council comprised of both veteran and newcomers for the past four years, said he feels the mix has worked well.
“I think it’s really important to have a diverse set of views on council. That’s a real strength. There’s been some tough issues for us all but I think it’s worked well overall,” he said.
And does Higham think he’s left a legacy along the way?
“I think that’s for others to decide.”
Higham said he ran his election campaign on bringing in a ‘fresh approach’ to municipal issues and he feels council has achieved several elements of that platform.
While he, of course, wishes more progress could have been made on certain issues, Higham believes this council has been integral in getting the ball rolling on addressing some very important concerns.
“I think we’ve been very successful in getting things lined up.”
He pointed to, for example, council’s efforts in working with the provincial and federal government in addressing the threat of freshwater flooding in town. Council has also been pushing for further provincial and federal action to deal with the threat of saltwater flooding out on the marsh – and a significant study is about to get under way on how to protect the infrastructure along the Chignecto Isthmus.
Higham said there has also been work happening for several years now on establishing Sackville as an age-friendly community as well as a leader in education reform, in partnership with local organizations. And just this past year, council has also played a key role in establishing a Roundtable on Climate Change.
“I think there’s a lot of foundational stuff that will help determine where we go next,” he said.
It will now be up to community to decide how it wishes to proceed and in which direction it will go, said the mayor.
Higham, who also served as a town councillor from 2008 to 2012, pointed out that one of the biggest challenges of this past term has been the increasing role of social media in municipal issues. He said often times the information people are receiving from Facebook posts and other sites are not accurate; and town staff are left with trying to find ways to address the misinformation.
He suggested perhaps “broader citizen involvement” in some of the various activities and organizations within the community might help counter some of that misinformation and bring more excitement to the “country-leading” efforts happening in Sackville.
Along with the search for a new mayor, Sackville is also seeking a new chief administrative officer in 2020. CAO Phil Handrahan announced last fall he will be stepping down from his post in February.