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‘It’s time to move on’ - Clifford Lee not seeking re-election for Charlottetown mayor

Clifford Lee, shown in this April 11, 2018 photo, has been mayor of Charlottetown since 2003, making him the longest serving mayor in Charlottetown history.
Clifford Lee, shown in this April 11, 2018 photo, has been mayor of Charlottetown since 2003, making him the longest serving mayor in Charlottetown history. ©THE GUARDIAN - Dave Stewart

Saying it was simply time to go, Clifford Lee will not seek re-election this November as mayor of Charlottetown.

Lee has served in municipal politics in the capital city for the past 30 years and was first elected as mayor in November 2003, making him the longest serving mayor in Charlottetown history.

“It’s time to move on and do something else,’’ Lee, 56, told The Guardian in an interview.

“I think, after 30 years in municipal government, it’s time for somebody else to become mayor. I think, regardless of what you end up doing in a career, there comes a point and time when you have to say, ‘How much longer do I do this?’ I’ve enjoyed the last 30 years being in municipal government, the last 15 years as mayor.’’

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Clifford Lee’s election history as mayor:

- First elected as mayor in 2003, defeating Kathleen Casey by 318 votes. Also ran: Marion E. MacCallum, Will McFadden

- Re-elected in 2006, defeating former mayor Ian ‘Tex’ MacDonald by 2,518 votes

- Re-elected in 2010, defeating former councillor Philip Brown by 3,057 votes. Also ran: Janice McKendrick

- Re-elected in 2014, defeating former councillor Philip Brown by 2,867 votes. Also ran: Keith Kennedy

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There has been speculation for months about what Lee would do going into November’s municipal election. His absence from the mayor’s race most certainly throws the door wide open to anyone considering a run.

So far, there is only one confirmed contender for the job, Al Douglas, who works as marketing events manager for the Murphy Hospitality Group.

Many thought Lee would try for one more term, long enough to see a new multi-purpose arena built in the city. But Lee said he knew four years ago that would be his last election.

“I’ve got to be honest with you. After the last election back in 2014 I told people close to me that that was probably my last campaign. That election campaign took a lot out of me.’’

Leading up to the 2014 election, Lee said he spent 10 hours a day, six days a week over four months campaigning. It took a toll on him, he said.

“I didn’t think in the 2014 campaign that I could do another one. Sure, I can stand up and say I’m running for mayor again. But if I’m not able and prepared and not physically capable of going out and banging on doors for the four months, then I’m not sure I deserve to be the mayor.’’

Related: Lee recounts some of the bigger accomplishments over past 15 years

When asked what he’ll miss the most, Lee is quick to say the people.

“Many of them will be life-long friendships and I’ll continue to enjoy for many, many years. I love dealing with people; I really enjoy people; I find people,’’ Lee said, pausing to collect his emotions. “The day has to come at some point and time and it may as well come in 2018 as opposed to 2022. Very few people get to spend 30 years in municipal government and 15 of those as mayor of the capital city in the province.’’

Of course, this announcement will likely lead some to speculate that Lee has his sights set on provincial politics.

Lee, who works in the facility department at Holland College, said while he’s not ruling anything out, he hasn’t given much thought to what’s next.

“You never say no and you never say it’ll never happen, but my gut tells me today if I was going to stay in politics, I would have liked to have stayed in the role I’m in today.’’

Dave.Stewart@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter - DveStewart

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