It’s been three years since retired city manager Wayne Baldwin beat out two challengers to claim White Rock’s mayoralty.
Now, vying for Round 2 with just one other name on the ballot, the 68-year-old admits he had hoped to return by acclamation.
“I wanted to push the easy button,” he said during an interview last week at city hall. “For me, this is the worst part of a public office, running a campaign to get re-elected. It’s not who I am. It’s very uncomfortable.”
The idea of walking away from unfinished business, however, was even less appealing.
“There’s a lot of things on the go and at this point, I want to see them through,” Baldwin said of his decision to run for the city’s first four-year term.
“There’s a lot to be done yet.”
Baldwin’s list includes negotiations to take over responsibility for the city’s water supply (announced in March 2013, with final negotiations on price expected to wrap up in the spring); relocation of the BNSF rail line from White Rock’s waterfront; and public art.
Baldwin says he feels he has kept promises of positive leadership, honest and ethical governance and engaging the public.
Reflecting on the past three years, he acknowledged the term has not been without controversy.
“There were a number of big mistakes that were made,” Baldwin said. “I wish they hadn’t happened, but they did.”
First on that list was the Mariner’s Reach project, now underway on the former White Rock Muffler site, at the corner of Oxford Street and Marine Drive. Due to a staff error that led to the plans needing to be redone to take the floodplain into account, citizens were left with the perception that the developer had been granted an extra 1½ feet of height.
But, “we had no choice, really,” he said. “It’s in the OCP (Official Community Plan).”
The Bishop Hill development in west White Rock also brought challenges, after city staff gave the developer inaccurate guidelines; and the under-construction Waves on Marine project, on East Beach, remains a source of angst.
Baldwin described the latter as “more of a process problem… But it could’ve been handled better.”
Baldwin said he also regrets not breaking down omnibus Bylaw 2000 – adopted in April 2013 – into smaller, more manageable pieces. It would have spared homeowners and the city considerable grief, he said.
“It just wasn’t good, it wasn’t smart,” he said. “Those things, I regret.”
In the city’s favour, however, is how each case was dealt with.
“Ultimately, we own it, but in every case we corrected it. We did the right thing,” Baldwin said. “We admitted to the mistake, we didn’t try to hide it.”
Asked about suggestions White Rock is being overdeveloped, Baldwin described the assertion as “a status of urban myth.”
“We’re growing at the rate of about 150 (to) 200 people a year,” he said. “Most of the stuff that’s going up is just replacement of what’s there now.”
He does, however, cringe when he thinks about the 12-storey development approved for Vidal Street. Council approved – with Baldwin and Couns. Al Campbell and Helen Fathers opposed – a spot OCP amendment to move it forward, and Baldwin said he still believes “it was the wrong thing to do.”
Regarding the tide of small businesses relocating to South Surrey, Baldwin said it is beginning to turn.
While it’s “not easy” to compete with the lower costs of operating in Surrey, Baldwin said the recent opening of two “dining alternatives” in White Rock is a good sign.
“You start to see little things like that happening and it signals a bit of a turnaround,” he said.
Challenges of a different nature came in the deaths of council-mates Mary-Wade Anderson (June 2012) and Larry Robinson (March 2014). The death of his granddaughter, Gabrielle, in June 2013 took an even more personal toll.
Baldwin said Gabrielle and his other nine grandchildren are what is driving him to fight to hold onto his role leading the city.
“I really love this place. The idea is just simply to do the best that I can, and leave it… in a far better place that it was when I got here.”