The next municipal election is still several months away, but Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo wants people to know early that he’s not seeking re-election.
He also has some critical words for the current incarnation of city council he has been working with, citing their conduct as a mitigating factor in his departure.
By announcing his intentions early, Jakubo said he hopes to see more candidates express an interest in running for Ward 7 in the Oct. 24 municipal election.
“I needed to make sure to have this announcement be made now, not let it get blurred as the months move forward and we get closer to the nomination period,” he said.
In emailed and verbal correspondence with Sudbury.com, Jakubo reflected on accomplishments during his first seven years on city council as well as what drove him to make the decision now.
His main reason for not seeking re-election relates to family, which he said has also been central in informing every decision to run for council thus far, including the 2014 and 2018 elections.
A third run for council, he said, “would place me and my family in a very tough situation with my children reaching their teenage years, being a time when we much more value being together as a family than having me fulfilling my council duties.”
This, he said, also does away with a recent push by some people for him to run for mayor, which would have required an even greater time commitment.
Although his decision not to seek re-election is a difficult decision on other fronts, he said his family made it easy.
Another reason to not seek re-election has to do with what he said is the increasingly unprofessional nature of city council.
“Our new council started out on a reasonable track, but increasingly has been drawn into personal attacks and outbursts at meetings, attacks in the media and it has slowed the decision-making process most of the time,” he said, adding that it’s a “minor miracle” they got through this year’s budget deliberations in five meetings.
Recent meetings have seen the city’s elected officials argue and speak over one another. During budget talks on Dec. 1, Jakubo reached a breaking point as elected officials talked and argued over one another and asked that all microphones be muted, after which he called an immediate five-minute recess.
During a Nov. 8 special city council meeting, meeting chair and Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer interrupted a heated debate, declaring “This is a friggin circus. Relax, people.”
Meanwhile, city council meetings routinely time out at the three-hour mark before the day’s agenda is completed, with lengthy discussions eating up the bulk of their time.
“These unprofessional actions at council meetings is partially the result of not reading reports, or not asking questions of staff, but also it seems to be increasingly political as several members attack the mayor during meetings because it’s clear that either they themselves may run for the big chair in 2022 or they have a favoured candidate who is not currently on council,” Jakubo said, adding that things appeared to have gone south in his second term.
Some council members have purported to be experts on certain topics, he said, and dig into reports from city administrators as such during meetings, which bog things down.
“Not seeing the progress I know is possible for our city at the council table, coupled with the stage my family is at, led us to make the decision that I would not seek re-election in 2022.”
Jakubo first sought public office in 2014 out of desire to replace Dave Kilgour in Ward 7, who he considered part of the “old boys club.”
“The heart of it all was making sure there was progress in the city for younger families, younger people, and families with younger children,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s the only way we can grow the city, and with previous generations, mine included, there’s a real brain drain that goes on following high school.”
Jakubo earned 50.9 per cent of the vote to Kilgour’s 31.22 per cent, with three other candidates filling out the balance of votes.
These first four years saw significant progress made, Jakubo said, including a deep dive into the city budget that resulted in the cutting of $6 million from operating costs to help freeze taxes in 2015 through measures such as attrition.
The Maley Drive extension was greenlit and major projects such as the Kingsway Entertainment District and the new central library/art gallery called Junction East moved forward. Capreol’s riverfront received a $1.8-million renewal to mark the community’s 100th anniversary.
Near the start of the election year of 2018, Jakubo was diagnosed with melanoma on his left cheek, a private medical journey made public when a photograph of his post-surgery face was published in The Sudbury Star.
This lack of privacy is something he said those running for public office should keep in mind.
Jakubo retained 51.95 per cent of the vote in the 2018 election against two other candidates, after which several projects moved forward. This has included roadwork, cost-saving projects such as the Lions Park walkway in Garson and important drainage work in Capreol scheduled for 2022 to address pipes currently unable to handle the flow of stormwater.
In this second term, Jakubo said his personal life got more complex.
His mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his father died suddenly in April of 2019, after which efforts turned to ensuring his mother was well cared for until her death in May of 2021.
“You can’t control what happens, you can’t always plan for what happens,” he said, adding that his time on city council meant he wasn’t able to see them as much as he might have otherwise been able to. This, he said, contributed to his ultimate decision to not seek re-election.
Now that this decision has been made, Jakubo said he looks forward to seeing who comes out of the woodwork to replace him in Ward 7.
“It really has to be someone who understands the issues that are at play and someone who can clearly communicate with the people,” he said, adding that it’s not something that anyone can do.
“You need to be able to make fact based difficult decisions and stand up to populist uproars knowing that there is always a silent majority of people who just want to see services delivered and big picture progress. You need to be able to communicate with residents in a clear and professional manner and you need to respect the governance role council fulfills, which is not operational action, but only direction and strategy delivered to staff.”
The biggest thing Jakubo said he’ll miss about being on city council is meeting community members he might not otherwise get to meet – those movers and shakers who are passionate about projects and committed to getting them done.
As for getting things done, with several months left in his second term on council and as chair of the finance and administration committee before the Oct. 24 election date hits, Jakubo said he doesn’t anticipate anything too significant to grace council chambers, with election years generally resulting in a slowdown.
Ongoing projects will push forward, he said, with the biggest decision of the year slated to be the 2022 property tax policy in May. Even that, Jakubo said, is expected to be fairly close to the status quo.
Tyler Clarke covers city council and political affairs for Sudbury.com.