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Economic development and health care are largely the responsibility of other levels of government, but city hall can play a role by cutting red tape and encouraging collaboration, Rhode said.

A longtime supporter of the Saskatchewan Party — he and his company have been donors — Rhode was appointed chair of the now-consolidated health region in 2009.

He stepped down in late 2014, citing a desire to work on his business and other ventures. Asked about his provincial political connections, Rhode emphasized that municipal politics is nonpartisan.

“At the end of the day, I’m here to represent my ward.”

Carol Reynolds, who launched her Ward 7 council bid in mid-August, said she called Rhode earlier this month with the aim of asking him to support her campaign.

“He came to me and asked me to bow out of the race,” said Reynolds, a former conservative operative who opened a coffee shop in Stonebridge two years ago, and has ties to mayoral candidate Rob Norris.

“As a voter in Ward 7, he couldn’t give me a strong enough reason to want to bow out or vote for him,” Reynolds added.

Rhode offered a slightly different account of the conversation, saying he told Reynolds about his campaign plans and said if things did not work out she was welcome to join him as a supporter.

Reynolds acknowledged vote-splitting is a “real concern” in the riding; Rhode downplayed that, and incumbent Mairin Loewen’s crushing 6,475 vote margin in the 2016 election, saying, “I believe that I am the strongest candidate.”

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