NANAIMO — Leonard Krog says the chorus of voices calling on him to help "fix" his hometown was simply too loud to ignore.
That's why Nanaimo's current MLA made it official Wednesday night, declaring his intention to run for mayor in this fall's municipal election. Krog, serving his fifth term in the B.C. legislature for the NDP, looked calm, comfortable and confident as he delivered a rousing speech to more than 200 people at the Coast Bastion hotel.
Krog said in his more than 30 years living in Nanaimo he has never seen the city suffer through what it has under the term of this current council.
"If the city was in great shape I wouldn't even have thought about doing it. But when you have all those people asking you and your city is in terrible shape and people want you to come and lead the charge to fix it, you've got a choice to make. You either say 'No, I'll just comfortably serve my years in the legislature' or 'I'll come back and I'll take up the challenge.' I'm taking up the challenge."
Krog said there was no specific tipping point that made up his mind, calling it a gradual decision.
"The major factors were the numbers of people, the increasing frequency and volume of their voices and the kinds of people who were coming forward urging me to run," he said, adding those imploring him to run covered the political spectrum from left to right.
Many strong candidates indicated they would run for council if Krog put his name forward for the mayor's seat, he said.
"At a certain point, you can't resist that call."
The 65-year-old who was raised in Coombs called it "unquestionably embarrassing and frustrating" to watch one boondoggle after another undertaken by Nanaimo's current council and senior management at City Hall.
He said the way Marilyn Smith, an assistant to Nanaimo mayors for more than 40 years, was forced out of her job was appalling. He rose in the legislature in February of last year and delivered a speech honouring Smith, his way of "subtly driving home" his displeasure.
"It continued from there. The treatment of staff, the firing of good people, good people leaving. It was the clearest indicator that they were being treated horribly. I wish I could point to one thing, but it was a massive collection," Krog said. "There's no question that council should have dismissed Tracy Samra (former Nanaimo CAO) a long time ago and there is no question in my mind that council never should have hired her in the first place."
A common theme in online comments leading up to Krog's official announcement questioned what he had actually done apart from serve as a career politician.
When asked, Krog rattled off a list of community projects he was a part of.
"I played my full role as a government MLA. I'm not claiming credit, but you know those 44 housing units the city turned down?," he said, raising his eyebrow.
As for his seat in the legislature, Krog said he will continue to serve as MLA throughout the summer and during the municipal campaign. However, he made clear he would stop taking a government paycheque once the campaign officially begins in September. He will resign his seat "quite quickly" if his mayoral bid is successful.
He said he has no concerns for his party in a byelection with the potential to topple the tenuous minority government.
"The reality is the Greens are largely happy with what's happening, the NDP voters are happy. The fact is people don't want to see the government fall...I don't think it's going to happen. I won this seat by 3,800 votes last time and that is a big margin."
On Twitter: @domabassi
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