Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders has announced he is calling an end to his short political career.
Saunders, 44, was first elected to council in 2005 and became mayor in 2008. He won’t seek another term in the November municipal elections.
He said the job takes too much of his time and attention away from his wife of 21 years and his three daughters, aged 11, 12 and 16.
“I couldn’t see myself doing it for another three years and missing those years with my children as they grow up,” Saunders said.
“My family has always supported me, but when I told them I was done being mayor my youngest daughter gave me a huge hug and was so excited. Right then and there I knew I’d made the right decision.”
He said often heated conflict at Colwood council didn’t contribute to his decision to step aside. Saunders has butted heads with Coun. Ernie Robertson throughout his term and in recent months the two have threatened each other with legal action.
The mayor has also been criticized in a number of anonymous mail outs and is considering launching a defamation case against the Colwood resident allegedly producing them.
But, Saunders said, his work with the majority of councillors and in the community has been positive and fulfilling.
“I can take some daggers in my back,” he said. “If I need to go to court to defend my good reputation, I will. That hasn’t pushed me out the door.”
After wrapping up as mayor, Saunders will continue working as a consultant for his excavating company and plans to take a more active role at his father’s auto dealership, Saunders Subaru, and with the Saunders Foundation established two years ago to support athletic development.
And in his final months at the helm, he’s hoping to get Colwood’s thorny sewage issues sorted out once and for all.
“We’re really close,” Saunders said. “If we can get the 56 local service areas merged into five or six, it will solve so many problems for the next council and free up a lot of staff time.”
Saunders said he feels good about the progress he’s made as mayor, particularly with increasing transparency of the City’s business operations and diversifying its tax base with more commercial zoning.
Under his tenure he also saw Colwood partner with Royal Roads University to have students analyze the energy-saving effects of sustainability initiatives, including the new Solar Colwood program that will subsidize the cost of solar hot water heating systems installed in nearly 900 homes.
West Shore Chamber of Commerce CEO Dan Spinner said Saunders’ leadership will be missed by the business community.
“He did a superb job attracting high density, green development,” Spinner said, citing Colwood Corners preparing to break ground this September and a deal that’s in the works for the Royal Bay lands.
“Every year he got better and better at connecting with a wide range of interest groups and encouraging community engagement on issues,” Spinner said. “Some criticized him, not everyone liked his green agenda, but he is someone deeply committed to the community in a real way.”
“I believe I’ll leave Colwood in a better position than when I started,” Saunders said. “It’s my honest opinion that we’ve set ourselves up to see taxes come down in the years to come, as development picks up.”
He said he hopes future councils will continue his efforts to attract a marina development at Royal Bay and keep the pressure on provincial politicians for two new high schools to replace Belmont.
He said he doesn’t know of anyone waiting in the wings to become mayor, but hopes his early announcement will give anyone thinking about it plenty of time to prepare their platform.
“It’s been a sincere honour and privilege to serve this community and have the opportunity to be part of a great team, including all the hard working City staff,” Saunders said. “We’ve built a strong foundation for the future of Colwood.”