Walter Sendzik hangs up the office chain

In Walter Sendzik’s mind, being mayor of St. Catharines was never meant to be a long-term career.

When he was first elected in 2014, he told himself it was a two-term commitment. He had left the private sector because he wanted to be part of the decision-making process in his community. But the goal was always to make a difference and pass the torch.

“I think the role of a public official, the person who is elected, should not be a career job. I don’t think it was ever meant to be a career job. And I think the best decisions councils and people make are when you have a change of mind by new people coming to the table who want to have the same civic duty but don’t want to be there forever.” Sendzik said in an interview. with Standard Monday.

“It’s a part of me that I want to stay true to. I never wanted it to be a career. I wanted to give it everything I could. And I believe, and I will allow history and other people to write the public record, but I know in my heart that I gave my all to my hometown.

Sendzik revealed in an interview that he is not seeking a third term as mayor in the October municipal elections.

Although he is following the path he set, that doesn’t mean he didn’t struggle with the decision.

Sendzik said he needs to make sure the community is in a good space to move past the COVID-19 pandemic before he can leave the mayor’s office. Now, with the vaccine, the therapeutics and what has been learned about crisis management over the past two years, he said he believes the city is turning a corner on the road to recovery and getting back on track. ‘momentum.

The decision was emotional, he said.

“Nothing gave me more satisfaction than being in the community and hearing the stories of people in our community, whether they were celebrating something amazing or going through challenges. best part of this job – meeting people and sharing our love of our city and trying to make a difference in whatever way they are.

“So it’s the work of a lifetime and one that I will miss dearly. I have some amazing memories and ones that will last a lifetime in the future. I’m blessed.”

Sendzik has no other job planned and is taking the summer off to think about his future. He said he has a real passion for social equity issues – he led the Compassionate City initiative – and would like to find a way to make contributions in these areas of need, including addictions, homelessness and mental health.

“The decision I make is one that I know is the right decision for me. And I believe our city will also move forward better, because the next person, hopefully, will be someone who is moving forward, who believes in the vision that we have set as a council, who wants St. Catharines be this inclusive community, this space where everyone can feel at home.

“I think we’ve set the table well for a new leader to come in and carry on, much like I carried on after Brian (McMullan) and much like Brian carried on after Tim Rigby.”

Sendzik said it’s not just one person who creates opportunity and many people work hard to make St. Catharines a special place to live and work. He said the city was in safe hands thanks to the “dynamic” management team led by chief executive David Oakes who works with the council.

Sendzik was chief executive of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and a political outsider when he was first elected on a platform of change after McMullan decided not to seek a third term. It was a solid race against a field that included two councilmen.

In 2018, Sendzik ran against three strangers with no political experience and easily won the race with 72% of the vote.

He is proud of some of the accomplishments he has been involved in over the past eight years, such as intermunicipal transit, the arrival of the GO train in Niagara, new social and affordable housing developments, private sector investments in downtown -ville, the redevelopment of Port Dalhousie and seeing the Canada Summer Games from the original bid to the new $100 million Canada Games Park.

His two terms on the board were the first in which the city had a strategic plan, with a vision to be the most vibrant, liveable, sustainable and innovative cities in North America. St. Catharines has become the first municipality in Niagara to have a climate action plan.

“One of the main reasons I ran in 2014 was because I wanted my kids to see St. Catharines as a place where they can have a career, they can start a family, they can enjoy what I appreciated and people who came before us appreciated, he said.

“And so I look back over the past eight years and we’ve made tremendous strides in building a community that the next generation can consider themselves a part of.”

Sendzik said there will always be more to do when it comes to building the city, but it’s time to pass the torch after eight years of giving it their all.

Sendzik’s decision not to run significantly opened up the mayoral race.

No one has announced their candidacy yet, although applications only opened on May 2 and potential candidates have until August 19 to register.

Sendzik said he would open the door to candidates seeking opinions or advice.

“It’s an opportunity for people to say, ‘How can I contribute to our community? What can I do? How to raise your hand?’ Because the last eight years was my contribution. I made a promise to my family, I made a promise to my community, and the promise was, “I want to make a positive contribution. And I think I was able to do it.

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