Lee Brand, the 25th mayor of Fresno, will not run for a second term, he said in a stunning announcement Monday.
City Hall insiders have said Brand’s exit will open the way for police Chief Jerry Dyer to run for mayor. In a statement, Dyer said he is “strongly considering” entering the race.
The mayoral primary will be held March 3, 2020.
“I will not seek a second term as mayor of Fresno,” Brand said in an appearance on Ray Appleton’s show on KMJ radio. “It’s time I move on.”
Andrew Janz, who ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Devin Nunes last year, was the only announced mayoral candidate. In an exclusive GV Wire poll conducted in April, Dyer was preferred in a three-way race with Janz and Brand, with Janz a close second.
Dyer, 60, is scheduled to retire in October after 18 years as police chief. A public search for his successor is underway.
On Monday, Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez said he would jump into the mayoral race.
“The city is at a crossroads and we need leadership that can bring all parts of our city together,” said Chavez, who represents District 5 on the council. “My almost 10 years serving residents across the city make me the most qualified candidate for mayor.”
In a statement, Janz thanked Brand for “his longstanding service and commitment to our great city.”
“It’s time that we come together as a community,” Janz said. “I look forward to sharing my vision for the city of Fresno in the coming months.”
Brand declined to say whether he would support another candidate. “At this point, I’m completely neutral. I want to focus on the things Fresno needs.”
Asked if he would be open to taking another role at Fresno City Hall, such as city manager, Brand demurred. “I want to get away from City Hall,” he said. Brand hoped to do some traveling and spending more time with his grandchildren and other family.
Brand said he tried to stay out of the “ideological civil war” in local politics and focus on issues he cared about, such as solving the city’s persistent problems of poverty, crime and homelessness.
“I hope I can be remembered as the person who started Fresno in that direction,” Brand said.
In a statement released by City Hall, Brand noted that he turned 70 in April, which “caused me to reflect on my life, my career and my time as mayor.”
“Not having the burden of re-election gives me the freedom to devote all of my energy to improving our community,” Brand said. “I will keep the ‘pedal to the metal’ until my last day in office.”
Brand was elected mayor in 2016, defeating Henry R. Perea, a member of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. Brand followed two-term Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who endorsed Brand as her successor.
Perea, reacting to the news about Brand, said: “It’s going to boil down obviously to a Janz-Dyer race. There are going to be a lot of new dynamics in play, and it’s going to shape up to be a very competitive contest.
“The message to the money folks is, if you’re not giving to both candidates, you’re not very smart.”
Before moving into the mayor’s office, Brand served two terms as a City Council member representing northeast Fresno’s District 6.
Brand is the 24th person to serve as mayor, though there have been 25 mayoral administrations. Z.S. Leymel served twice, from 1929-34 and from 1941-47.
He is the former president and co-founder of Westco Equities, a property management/construction firm he has owned and operated for 29 years.