Coun. Brian McHattie became the first candidate to file his nomination papers declaring his intention to run for mayor of Hamilton.

Thursday Jan. 2 was the first day candidates could file nomination papers for the 2014 municipal election. McHattie launched his campaign in front of supporters at Hamilton city hall Thursday morning.

In his speech to supporters McHattie called for greater transparency at city hall. He also mentioned that air quality in the city was a priority.

"It's time for a different kind of Hamilton," McHattie said. "It's time for us to take off as a city, to play that role [...] right across the country as a hugely important Canadian city. It's time for Hamilton to be successful."

McHattie's decision to run comes as no surprise. The Ward 1 councillor made clear his intention in September on Laura Babcock's 'The Laircast', that he will vie for the city’s top job in the fall election.

The councillor's decision to file is nomination papers early was a strategic one, he said.

"Any time a candidate runs, you're always concerned about the number of candidates and vote-splitting. That's just a politics 101 issue," he explained.

"Coming out early, part of that is certainly to send the message that I'm very serious about this run and I'm going to take the full 10-month opportunity to connect with all kinds of Hamiltonians."

Flanked by his wife, Elaine Blau, and son Mitch, as well as a few dozen supporters, McHattie introduced some members of his campaign team, including former Hamilton Hive chair Ryan Moran and campaign manager Todd White.

McHattie has a strong environmental background. A native of Etobicoke, he moved to Hamilton in 1986 and got involved in community environmental issues. That included the original task force for sustainable development and the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan. He was also one of the founders of Environment Hamilton.

McHattie cites the redevelopment of the Lister Block, encouraging the CBC’s presence in Hamilton and improving relations with the provincial and federal government as some key victories so far as a councillor.

With increased citizen involvement and ever-growing activity on social media, McHattie said it’ll likely be a different election than years past.

“In the last election in 2010, it wasn’t a big thing,” he said. “Here it is three to four years later and it’s orders of magnitude involved.”

His campaign will still be heavily street focused, he said.

“I grew up in politics with the on-the-street campaign, banging on doors and engaging people,” he said.

Former mayor Fred Eisenberger also stated that he intends to enter the race for mayor in 2014. McHattie, who endorsed Eisenberger in his last bid for mayor, said they've talked. 

"I did talk to him and encouraged him that maybe it's my time, Fred. But he seems committed to running so we'll have to see how that goes in the weeks ahead."

Candidates vying for councillor positions also queued up to file their papers on Thursday. Matthew Green, a community activist and business owner signed up to run in Ward 3. He said the council table is the best place for him now to make a difference in the community.

"At this point in time in my life I just feel like it's more important to helping to represent the needs and issues of our neighbourhoods," Green said. He pointed to transit, infrastructure and crime as some of the issues facing Ward 3, but added much of his platform will come from conversations with residents themselves. 

"I think previously [Ward 3 residents] didn't feel like they were being listened to. So I want to create an environment and a culture in our neighbourhood where people feel like that have a genuine opportunity to engage in their local government."

Hoping to replace McHattie in Ward 1 is Jason Allen who registered to run on Thursday. A long-time volunteer in the ward, Allen said he felt it was time to take his involvement to the next level.

"We've been on the cusp of change ever since I moved here, but I'm worried we're getting stalled on the cusp," he said. "So I think it's a matter of keeping the momentum going and doing some really progressive things like we've always done in Ward 1."