Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner on Thursday became the latest member of London, Ont., city council to announce they will not seek re-election in the upcoming municipal race.
Turner, who has represented the ward since 2014, says he plans to bow out of this fall’s election and will instead throw his support behind Skylar Franke, one of two candidates currently running in the ward.
The move leaves one more council seat wide open heading into the October election. At least four other members of council, including Mayor Ed Holder, are not seeking re-election — one is running for mayor — while at least three have yet to file nomination papers.
“It’s been an honour serving the residents of Ward 11 for the past eight years and it’s been a great job and I really enjoyed the work. I’ve enjoyed helping to advance the really important issues of our community,” Turner told Global News.
Turner said he had been watching to see who would be a good successor, and found that Franke, who heads the London Environmental Network, “had all of it in spades.”
“She was very well organized, she shares a lot of the same ideals and principles that I do, and I think she’s incredibly well-connected with the community and I think she’ll do an outstanding job,” he said.
Franke has served as executive director of the London Environmental Network since 2017, and before that was involved with ReForest London. Until last month, she was also president of the Urban League of London, a position Turner held from 2006 until 2010.
“Her commitment to the environment and especially to our climate change declaration is really well backed by her position as the director of the London Environmental Network,” Turner said.
“She’s got a great understanding of municipal policy and politics. … I think she’s demonstrated that she’s ready for the position.”
Franke is one of two candidates currently registered to run in Ward 11. As of Thursday, Jeremy McCall, president of the non-profit group Dad Club London, is her only challenger.
Speaking with Global News, Franke said Turner’s ringing endorsement was greatly appreciated, adding that “he leaves very big shoes to fill, but I’m hoping that I can show in the next four months that I’m ready to fill them.”
“I’m running in this election because I think that council needs some strong leadership to help us in the next couple of years with some of our biggest issues of affordability, housing, we’ve seen a much higher need for social services in the community, we’ve seen a greater need for climate action,” Franke said.
Turner, she noted, was known around the horseshoe for his deliberative approach to council business — “‘reading the reports,’ as Joni Baechler would say.”
“I think his support of my candidacy demonstrates that maybe he thinks I also will bring some of those values and those skills to the role,” she said.
Among the things Turner says he is proud of from his two terms in office is council making affordable housing units in new buildings a routine part of the planning process.
“That was a huge policy switch and I hope that council is able to find a way to keep that going now that the bonusing provisions in the Planning Act have been removed by the provincial government,” he said.
“As much as we’ve disagreed on a lot, the one thing that we have had in common was a really deep commitment to housing and improving the housing situation for Londoners.”
A council disappointment, he said, was the “watering down of rapid transit.” Though, he notes he’s glad that at least three of the five components are moving forward.
“I hope there’s opportunity in the future to extend the network. I think it’s essential. It’s the backbone of development in the city.”
Turner served the majority of his time on council working at the Middlesex-London Health Unit as director of environmental health and infectious diseases.
In August, he took on the role of paramedic chief at Lambton County EMS. Before joining council in 2014, Turner spent years working as a paramedic with Middlesex-London EMS and the OPP.
Voters head to the polls on Oct. 24.
Candidates have until 2 p.m. on Aug. 19 to file their nomination papers.
London council incumbents running this fall:
- Shawn Lewis (Ward 2)
- Mariam Hamou (Ward 6)
- Steve Lehman (Ward 8)
- Anna Hopkins (Ward 9)
- Elizabeth Peloza (Ward 12)
- John Fyfe-Millar (Ward 13)
- Steven Hillier (Ward 14)
London council incumbents not running again:
- London Mayor Ed Holder
- Mo Salih (Ward 3)
- Jesse Helmer (Ward 4)
- Josh Morgan (Ward 7)*
- Stephen Turner (Ward 11)
*Running for mayor
London council incumbents who have not filed papers yet:
- Michael van Holst (Ward 1)
- Maureen Cassidy (Ward 5)
- Paul Van Meerbergen (Ward 10)
Wards with no candidates or only one registered candidate:
- Ward 2 (Shawn Lewis)
- Ward 4 (Tariq Khan)
- Ward 7 (Corrine Rahman)
- Ward 8 (Steve Lehman)
- Ward 10
- Ward 12 (Elizbeth Peloza)
- Ward 14 (Steve Hillier)
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