British Columbia

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov announces he won't be seeking re-election

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov told city council Tuesday that he won't be seeking re-election due to changing priorities in his life. 

Vagramov was elected as the youngest mayor in B.C. in 2018; faced controversy over sexual assault charge

Rob Vagramov is pictured speaking. He is a white man with a parting on the left hand side of his black hairdo, and is wearing a suit.
Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov, seen here in 2019, has decided not to seek re-election. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov has announced he won't be seeking re-election.

Vagramov, elected in 2018, told city council of his decision at the end of its Tuesday meeting, saying it was due to changing priorities in his life.

With municipal elections across B.C. less than three months away (Oct. 15), Vagramov was the only mayor in Metro Vancouver who had not indicated one way or the other whether he was planning to seek another term.

"I was a bit surprised," said Coun. Amy Lubik.

"I know this is just the time when everybody's looking through their lives and their hearts to figure out whether being in politics is really what's best for their future."

Vagramov did not respond to a request for comment from CBC News but said in council he would elaborate on his decision in a letter in the near future.

No one is currently a candidate for mayor, though Coun. Meghan Lahti has been rumoured to be considering a run. 

Vagramov joins New Westminster's Jonathan Cote, Langley Township's Jack Froese and Pitt Meadows Bill Dingwall as Metro Vancouver mayors not running again. 

'Very fractious' term

Elected mayor in 2018 at the age of 26 after a term on council, Vagramov pursued an agenda of slowing the pace of growth and protecting the city's parks with the support of a narrow majority on council. 

But shortly after being elected, he was charged with sexual assault, stemming from an incident during a date in 2015. 

Vagramov's charge was stayed when he completed an alternative measures program. 

But while he initially took a leave of absence, he returned as mayor for a month while the case was ongoing before returning to a leave of absence after criticism from both a majority of council and the provincial government

"I think that there's been quite a lot of sort of lingering upset in the community about some of the things that had happened early in his term," said Coun. Zoe Royer. 

In the years since, Port Moody has had one of the most contentious councils in the province, with councillors and Vagramov regularly criticizing each other. At one point, council agreed to workshops with an outside group to try to improve communication. 

"It's been very, very difficult, the contentiousness," said Royer. 

"I think that for the mayor, he's perhaps tried to fan the flames a little bit. To me, it's very troubling when an elected person is deeply interested in wedge issues."

Lubik, who was occasionally the deciding vote on motions, said there were plenty of accomplishments under Vagramov's tenure, including updating the city's affordable housing strategies, focusing on family-friendly housing and advancing several climate change policies. 

But when asked about the dynamic on council and what responsibility Vagramov had, she declined to support or criticize the mayor directly. 

"It's been very fractious, and I think it takes a lot out of us," she said.

"But I think that there are different ways of leading group conversations, and I hope that everybody is learning and adapting our ways of interacting with each other."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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