Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis will not seek re-election

Mayor Eddie Francis will not seek re-election in the fall. He made the official announcement in his office at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Mayor Eddie Francis will not seek re-election in the fall. He made the official announcement in his office at 9:30 a.m. Friday. (Amy Dodge/CBC News)

Mayor Eddie Francis will not seek re-election in the fall.

He made the official announcement in his office Friday morning. His wife, son and daughter were by his side.

"I just thought the time was right to share with you my decision," Francis said.

From the beginning, I've been humbled.- Mayor Eddie Francis

Francis began his political career when he won a by-election at age 25.

"No one knew who I was," he said.

He then won three consecutive mayoral races.

"From the beginning I’ve been humbled, significantly, significantly humbled by the trust people of Windsor put in me," he said.

Francis got engaged and married, graduated law school and had two children while mayor.

“I’m thrilled for him," wife Michelle Prince said. "Political years are little bit like dog years. I married a younger man for a reason,” said the mayor’s wife, Michelle Prince. ”It will be nice that he’s not attached to the BlackBerry 24/7.”

Uncertain future

Francis said he does not have a job lined up in the private sector.

"I have no job lined up. I had some offers this morning," he said.

Francis said he does not have a political path mapped out either. He admits he has been approached by political parties at both the provincial and federal levels.

"I’m going to finish my term. If I was going to run provincially, or if I was going to run federally, I’d have done it," he said.

Francis said he has long known he wouldn't seek re-election.

"When I delivered the state of the city, I knew it was my last state of the city," Francis said.

He delivered that speech Nov. 27, 2013.

Under the reign of Francis:

  • The WFCU was built.
  • The downtown aquatic centre was built.
  • There were waterfront improvements.
  • The city went seven years in which property taxes were not raised.
  • The Ambassador Bridge Co. has not been able to expand its operations in the west end.
  • A cargo hub was announced at Windsor International Airport.
  • The city was involved in the 101-day "garbage strike," as CUPE workers walked the picket line
  • Windsor's firefighters won an arbitration hearing, leading the mayor to close two fire halls.

Francis was also the head of the Windsor Police Services Board as several scandals, including the David Van Buskirk trial, unfolded.

Francis called the murder of Windsor police Const. John Atkinson “the darkest day” of his tenure.

“That changed my life,” Francis said.

"He leaves a positive legacy, all in all," CBC municipal affairs commentator and political science professor Cheryl Collier said. 

Collier said the mayor's decision "lines up with" the early presentation of the 2014 budget and his "retrospective state of the city address" in which Francis reflected on several of his accomplishments.

"We turned the city around. We took the city to a new level. I hope future councils and future mayors will continue the path," Francis said. "The city is not a function of one individual."

Francis called economy during his three terms the “most difficult and testing.”

When he took office, the city's unemployment rate was 7.3 per cent. After rising into the teens during his tenure, Friday it was announced Windsor's unemployment rate was 7.8 per cent. He called the new numbers "timely."

Mayor remains focused

"There’s something to be said for leaving at the top of your game," Francis said. "My announcement early allows us to focus on our council agenda."

He then had warning for councillors.

"If you want to start the 2014 election campaign, do that outside the council chambers," Francis said.

While he promised not to change his mind between Friday and the municipal election, Francis said he'll stay involved.

"I will play a role in this election," he said. "I am not going to sit on the sidelines and not have a comment about what direction to take. I may be prepared to support and endorse a candidate."

Bill Marra, who was defeated by Francis for mayor in 2003, said he was "very surprised to hear the news."

"I think the mayor deserves a lot of credit for not only making his decision early on, but announcing it publicly early on," Marra said. "That removes the speculation that certainly has already begun to take place, and it provides an opportunity to anyone who's interested in running for the position to make that decision early enough and prepare themselves and really roll out what will be a very meaningful campaign."

Marra said he is not ready to say if he will run.


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