One of Metro Vancouver's more environmentally minded mayors is going to say goodbye to electoral politics.
In an Instagram statement today, Jonathan Cote said that he won't seek reelection after serving as New Westminster's mayor for two terms. He was first elected to council in 2005 at the age of 26, serving three terms before defeating incumbent mayor Wayne Wright in 2014.
"It has been an honour to serve this community for the past 16 years and I am incredibly proud of the work we have been able to accomplish," Cote said in his post.
"From our work on housing policy to our bold steps on climate action, our small city has been a leader in so many ways," he continued. "This work would not have been possible without the hard work from City staff, community members and my colleagues on council over the years who have been so dedicated to building a compassionate and forward thinking community."
Cote's tenure coincided with a revival of the downtown core, which was initiated when he was on council and Wright was mayor. A waterfront park, the Anvil Centre, the River Market, and developments around the Columbia and New Westminster SkyTrain stations, including a multiplex, helped attract many new residents, including a fair number of young families who felt that they had been priced out of East Vancouver.
It helped that New West, which covers just 15.6 square kilometres, has five SkyTrain stations.
“Younger people and baby boomers are starting to appreciate the urban environment—and that urban feel is missing from most suburban communities in Metro Vancouver," Cote told the Straight back in 2012 in an interview in the Heritage Grill restaurant. "This is actually becoming a value: being able to walk everywhere, being able to take public transit, being able to jump on a SkyTrain to go downtown.”
In more recent years, New West has carved out a reputation as a centre for progressive thinking around housing, climate action, and transportation.
The city has a vibrant LGBT community and lively Pride festival, and it has hosted the annual Recovery Day festivities for those trying to free themselves from addiction to drugs and alcohol. There's also a new high school, which came after many years of wrangling between the school board, the city, and the province.
During Cote's two terms, the Uptown area has become more vibrant than ever; a ferry service was launched between Queensborough and Quayside; and the Brewery District has been redeveloped, enlivening the area near Royal Columbian Hospital.
But the city has also faced its share of difficulties in recent years, including fires at the New Westminster pier and at the building housing the Heritage Grill, which was a centre for arts and culture.
"The past two years have been challenging for our city but we have been resilient and caring in the face of our struggles," Cote said in today's Instagram post. "It feels like we have lost some momentum but I am confident that our city has a bright future ahead.
"We are tough, diverse, quirky and most importantly we are a community with a big heart. These are traits that have served us well in the past and will give us strength in the future."
Cote has also been an influential politician at the regional level, chairing the TransLink Mayors' Council since he was reelected as mayor in 2018. With his master's degree in urban studies, he's been a keen supporter of rapid-transit projects to reduce automobile traffic.
Cote is the only mayor in the region over the past 30 years who has twice been photographed for the cover of the Georgia Straight.