BANFF – The Town of Banff now has a mayoral race in the October municipal election.
After 11 years on town council, Brian Standish has filed nomination papers to take a run for Banff’s top job, running against former councillor Stavros Karlos who filed his nomination papers in June.
A born and raised Banffite, Standish said he’s had this at the back of his mind since being elected to council in 2010, but didn’t want to go up against the former mayor, Karen Sorensen, who resigned after being appointed to the Canadian Senate in late July.
“I wasn’t going to run against her, that didn’t make sense, but now that Karen’s gone, I think this is the perfect opportunity to step up and show some leadership,” he said.
While Karlos was highly passionate and outspoken during his decade on council, and famous for dropping the F-bomb in council during one heated debate, Standish is quiet and seldom gets into debate.
“I am not the most outspoken person, but certainly I listen, I process and I make decisions based on facts,” he said.
“I have a totally different style than say, Karen … she’s bold, but mine’s a different style.”
For Standish, the biggest issue facing the Banff community during the next four-year council term is economic recovery from the devastating fall-out of the COVID-19 pandemic of the past 18 months.
“There’s some businesses that have been closed for more than they have been open in the last 18 months, so it’s been a real challenge for some businesses,” he said.
“My goal would be to get the economy back on track.”
While he said much of that is out of the hands of local politicians, such as border closures or another wave of COVID-19, he said the Town of Banff needs to curtail its spending.
“There’s lots of nice-to-haves, but we might need to push those further down the road and concentrate on the need-to-haves,” he said.
“I know every politician says that they’re going to curb spending, but I think we really do need to look at it seriously.”
Another top issue for Standish is the future of the Fenlands recreation centre.
Currently, the Town is conducting a survey on possible future options, which could include a fitness centre or theatre and music studio, indoor climbing wall, arts and culture space, and indoor turf for soccer, ultimate frisbee, flag football, or pump tracks during summer.
Standish said he wants to make sure Banff never loses its second ice rink.
“There’s some changes going on down there and I am certainly open to ideas, but I’d hate to see us lose that second ice rink,” he said.
Standish believes Banff has lost its sense of community over the past 18 months.
“We haven’t been able to celebrate our joys or mourn our losses,” he said.
“There’s a lot of divisive topics in the community right now and we need to pull together, through programming, through recreational facilities, just get the town back on track.”
In the 2010 election, Standish received 786 votes and Karlos got 1,063. In 2013, Standish secured 1,094 votes and Karlos received 1,316. Karlos decided to take a break from local politics in 2017 after three terms on council.
For Karlos, the upcoming term will see a big focus on the development of an updated Banff Community Plan, which he believes is the perfect platform for community discussions on bigger issues facing the townsite into the future.
Among those issues are tackling climate change locally, other big environmental issues, and ongoing work on transit and transportation to address congestion and bumper-to-bumper traffic expected to return once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Recovering from the fallout of the pandemic will continue to be a big issue facing the Banff community, with Karlos noting both residents and businesses have raised concerns about tax burdens.
“Everyone has been affected by the pandemic and there’s different levels of stress in every single area of the community,” he said during an interview with the Outlook after he filed his nomination papers.
“This does need to be a period of restraint and prudence followed by rationalization on a go-forward basis, and I think that’s what residents are looking for, but that doesn’t mean blowing up the ship.”
Sorensen had previously announced she intended to bow out of municipal politics and would not seek re-election in October after 18 years in public office, including two-terms on council and three terms as mayor.
Corrie DiManno, who was elected by council this month as the interim mayor leading up to the Oct. 18 municipal election following Sorensen’s resignation due to her Senate appointment, has not yet said either way if she will seek re-election.
“I am still undecided,” she said.