The Town of The Blue Mountains Mayor Alar Soever has confirmed he will not seek reelection this fall.
In an exclusive interview with CollingwoodToday after council’s committee of the whole meeting on August 9, Soever announced his name will not be on the ballot in this fall’s municipal election.
“I’ve spent four years here, we’ve done a lot of good things,” said Soever. “There is a health component, I don’t ever do things halfway – one of my problems is I’ve never had a good work-life balance.”
Soever, who is 66 years old, said he always envisioned retiring at 55. He said another four-year term on council would take him to the age of 70. During this term of council, Soever underwent a quadruple bypass for a heart condition.
“We’ve made a lot of positive changes,” he said, noting the progress on the Gateway attainable housing project, the Campus of Care project, overall infrastructure and assessment gains.
“It’s been a hard decision. You want to stay and finish everything you start, but when I look at all the things we’re doing, I’m not sure another four years would do it.”
The mayor said a big factor in his decision to retire from local government was Grey County politics. The mayor and deputy mayor are members of county council and Soever said he thinks the county system is broken.
“I couldn’t see myself going to the county for another four years,” he said. “For 20 years, people have tried different approaches – mine has been a bit more abrasive, but we don’t have the same issues as the rest of Grey County. They will in the next 15 years.”
The Blue Mountains contributes a significant amount to county coffers and, for many years, leaders in the community have argued that the return on that investment has been lacking – Soever agrees.
“We provide a large percentage of the county’s budget and we’ve really never received any recognition for that,” he said. “There is a whole problem with the governance model. I don’t think the province has the courage to change it.”
Soever vowed he would remain involved in community projects and said he would continue to volunteer for local groups and committees. He also said he gave serious thought to stepping down from the mayor’s chair and running for a seat on council, but ultimately decided that wasn’t a good idea.
“You don’t want the ex-mayor sitting on council second-guessing the new mayor. It wouldn’t be fair,” he said. “I’m happy with the four years. I’ve learned a lot. By and large, council got along. We’ve had a lot of wins and the community pulled together through COVID.”
Soever said at times he was frustrated with the extenuating circumstances that go along with the job of being the mayor of the second-fastest growing community in Canada.
“You have to spend a lot of time dealing with noise and nonsense. When you get to be 66 and a grumpy old man, you have little patience for noise and nonsense,” he said. “I think I have handled the stress pretty well – with a sense of humour.”
When asked what advice he would give his successor, Soever had a quick answer.
“Enjoy your time,” he said. “There is a lot of work to do and our staff is great. They’re great to work with. Enjoy your time and don’t take the noise and nonsense too seriously.”
The municipal election will be held on October 14, 2022. At this time, incumbent councillor Andrea Matrosovs is the only declared candidate for mayor in The Blue Mountains.