Saint John mayor Mel Norton announced on Thursday he will not seek a second mandate in this spring's municipal election, taking many people in the city by surprise, including at least one member of council who is now considering running for the post.

In a statement, Norton said the past four years have been "among the most rewarding" of his his life.

But he's ready to return to private life with a renewed focus on his legal practice.

"Thank you for trusting me to make decisions on behalf of Canada's first city. Thank you for the privilege of being able to sit in the mayor's seat and represent the most important of democratic institutions: common council."

'It's his decision, but I would have liked to have seen him reoffer.' - Bill Farren, city councillor

Ward 1 Coun. Bill Farren told CBC News he was "taken aback" and "disappointed" by the announcement.

"I think he still has a lot to offer," said Farren. "It's his decision, but I would have liked to have seen him reoffer."

"I think it's important that we have good strong leadership. And I believe he provided that in the last 3.5 years."

But now that Norton has decided not to run again, Farren says he might toss his hat in the ring.


Coun. Bill Farren, who was first elected to council in 2004, says he will consider running for mayor now that Mel Norton has stepped down.

"I'm going to have to go to my wife and supporters and assess things," he said.

Farren, who has served on council for nearly 12 years, says he was encouraged to put his name forward in the last election, but chose not to when Norton announced his intentions.

Now, he is "leaning towards" running. "I do think I have something to provide as the mayor of the city, the leadership role that I'm used to in other fields that I've been in, and I think I do have things to provide and offer for the citizens of the city and to move the city forward," he said.

Farren is a founding member and a director of the Coalition of Nursing Home Residents' Rights, founding member of the West Side Food Bank Boosters, past president and vice-president of the Saint John District Labour Council, and past vice-president of the Saint John board of police commissioners.

"I'll make a decision as quick as I can, but I'm not going to rush or jump into anything," said Farren. "This is not a small task or a small job … If I do do it, I'm going to provide that diligence and care that the office deserves."

Norton said the city was in a tough place when he took office in 2012, but he believes the situation has improved, with stable taxes, "the pension plan fixed," a new drinking water system and strong economic development — including the Energy East pipeline, the JDI mill expansion and the expansion of East Point shopping.

"The major goals of our campaign have been met and the city is on the right path," the statement said.

 "I'll remain involved in the community, continue to live in the heart of our historic city and help move it forward wherever I can."

Chris Dever, who works for the mayor's office, told CBC News that Norton is unavailable for further comment on his decision at this time.