'I'm going to miss this place': Steve Kent looks back on 20 years in politics

After two decades, Steve Kent is leaving public life for his new role, managing Mount Pearl.

Longtime politician prepares for 'major adjustment' of working as city administrator

Steve Kent spent the week clearing out his office at Confederation building but he isn't ruling out a political comeback down the road. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Steve Kent won't celebrate his 40th birthday until next May, but he already has two decades of political experience under his belt. 

Kent spent the week clearing out his office at Confederation Building as he gets set to move on from elected office. "I'm going to miss this place" he told CBC Here and Now's Anthony Germain, who stopped by Kent's office on Tuesday. 

'It's a really, really tough decision to walk away.' - Steve Kent

"I've got mixed feelings about leaving," he said while packing up pictures.

"It's a really, really tough decision to walk away."

But Kent isn't exactly walking away from public life. He recently announced that he's moving back to Mount Pearl City Hall, where his political career began.

He has been hired as the city's chief administrative officer — a job that comes with an annual salary of over $190,000 a year, about $100,000 more than he was making in the legislature. 

"I wasn't looking for a job," Kent said when asked if he did this for financial reasons. But he went on to say family and finances are always a consideration.

"If it had been any other job, I probably wouldn`t have considered it," he said.

Where it all started 

Steve Kent made national headlines 20 years ago, when at the tender age of 19, he became the youngest elected official in Mount Pearl's history. Garnering the highest number of votes in the 1997 election, he automatically became the deputy mayor. 

Steve Kent was only 19 when he was elected to council in Mount Pearl in 1997, and immediately became deputy mayor. (CBC Archives)

Six years later, in 2003, Kent became mayor of Mount Pearl when Dave Denine stepped down to run for the Progressive Conservatives.

In 2005 he won the mayor's chair by acclamation. His tenure as mayor would last only another two years, though, when he set his own sights on a seat in the legislature. 

The provincial scene 

In 2007, voters again gave Kent a stamp of approval, electing him as their MHA in Mount Pearl North.

He sat as a backbencher for the first few years, but eventually ended up in Kathy Dunderdale's cabinet, serving in a number of portfolios.

By 2014, the 36-year-old, now a veteran of the game, ran for the leadership of the party, but came up short, eliminated on the first ballot in a race eventually won by Paul Davis. It was Kent's first loss as a politician.

One year later, the PCs lost the general election, but again, Kent managed to hang on to his seat in a hotly contested battle against another Mount Pearl political heavyweight, Randy Simms. 

In 2014, Steve Kent ran for the leadership of the provincial PC party but lost on the first ballot to Paul Davis and John Ottenheimer. (CBC Archives)

Despite his party's loss at the polls and the public's anger over the soaring cost of building Muskrat Falls, Kent still says the project is good for Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I still believe that decades from now the province will reap the benefits," he said.

Putting politics aside

In recent months, Kent had been testing the waters to see if another run at the leadership of the PC party was in the cards, but that is clearly now off the table.   

So how will a career politician put aside his political bias in his new job? "I believe I can do it," Kent said, but admitted, "It's going to be a major adjustment." 

Kent told the CBC's Anthony Germain he plans to work in Mount Pearl for at least a decade. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC )

Kent, who has three young children, said his new role will allow him to be an even better father and husband. That said, he didn't rule out a return to politics.

"It's a long road ahead," he said.

About the Author

Fred Hutton

CBC News

Fred Hutton works with CBC's bureau in St. John's.