Looking confident and sure-footed, newly minted Mayor Linda Hepner laid out her priorities on Monday night as she and her Surrey First team were sworn into office.
A crowd of about 400 packed council chambers at Surrey’s new city hall when the recently elected Surrey council was escorted in by an honour guard.
Hepner began by thanking outgoing mayor Dianne Watts for her three terms. Watts is now planning to run federally for the Conservatives in South Surrey-White Rock.
“Dianne Watts never met a good idea she didn’t like,” Hepner said, adding she looks forward to working with Watts when she is in Ottawa. “And by the way, I’ve got a little light rail project I want to talk to you about.”
Hepner listed her priorities in the years to come.
Her first order of business is to promote a “yes” vote in this spring’s transportation referendum.
She also plans to make good on her promise to hire another 100 police officers next year.
“We will place an emphasis on neighbourhood policing,” Hepner said. “You will see front-line officers build relationships with residents and business owners and become more ingrained in the very fabric of our neighbourhoods.”
She will create a business advisory council to accelerate growth in the private sector.
She also wants to make Surrey one of the nation’s most “age-friendly” cities.
“We will start with a seniors’ summit next year,” Hepner said. “And we will not leave behind the most vulnerable and less-fortunate in our community.”
She will create a “social innovation strategy” bringing together the best minds in strengthening the city’s social safety net.
She also said she wants to hear from people about the great ideas they have for Surrey.
“If it’s something that will make our city better, I want to know about it,” she said. “If it’s a way to make our city more sustainable or more livable for families, I want to know about it.”
Hepner became emotional when she expressed how excited she was to begin working with the new team, returning Couns. Tom Gill, Judy Villeneuve, Barbara Steele, Mary Martin and Bruce Hayne, and newcomers to civic politics Couns. Vera LeFranc, Mike Starchuk and Dave Woods.
“I see a team in every sense of the word,” she said. “It’s a team that’s willing to work hard on your behalf.”
In addressing her colleagues directly, she said “we are going to have a very, very busy four years.”
A brief council meeting was then convened to name the Surrey representatives of the Metro Vancouver board of directors.
They are: Hepner, Villeneuve, Steele, Hayne and Martin. Gill was appointed as alternate mayor.