A funeral director says he has a solution for the dead wood he claims is plaguing city hall -- he's going to run for mayor.
Mike Vogiatzakis, owner of the Voyage Funeral Home in Elmwood, said he has assembled a campaign team of 500 volunteers and will formally declare his candidacy May 1.
"People across Winnipeg are frustrated with the scandals at city hall and its inability to get things done," Vogiatzakis, 49, said. "People are ready for somebody not tied to big interests, who is not a politician, who can get things done -- I've done that my whole life and I can do that at city hall."
Vogiatzakis said he spent the past two years weighing the merits of running for mayor -- that's also the same period when his funeral home at Henderson Highway and Hespeler Avenue was severely affected by the construction of the new Disraeli Bridge.
He will enter a campaign dragging along some unwanted baggage. He was convicted twice -- in 2007 and 2004 -- of filing a false statement to Manitoba Public Insurance because he collected benefits while working. He had judgments registered against him in court for non-payment of wages while operating a DJ business before he became a funeral director.
Vogiatzakis is the brother of Kyriakos Vogiatzakis, who was charged, and later acquitted, of arson-related offences when his DJ business, Roadshow Sound, was destroyed in an April 2001 fire.
"Each one of us has a history and a past," Vogiatzakis said. "The past is a stepping stone to my future. Everyone goes off the path one time or another in their life. I've never done anything that I was ashamed of or that I regret."
Vogiatzakis said civic politicians and senior administrators pay lip service to concerns of residents and business owners, adding he believes a wholesale change is required on council.
'People are ready for somebody not tied to big interests, who is not a politician, who can get things done -- I've done that my whole life and I can do that at city hall'
"I deal with people during the worst of times, all the time," he said. "I know how to deal with people when they need help."
When reminded the current mayor rode to office 10 years ago as a successful businessman and outsider, Vogiatzakis said he's different.
"That businessman became a politician. I won't. I will not be bought or sold."
To demonstrate his capabilities and his out-of-the-box mindset, Vogiatzakis said he's staging a demonstration later today on an innovative pothole-patching material he believes will end the city's pothole woes. "Why didn't Sam Katz or someone else from the city bring this guy here?" Vogiatzakis said. "They're not interested in making things better for Winnipeg. I'm bringing him here and showing you how we can end our pothole problems forever."
Vogiatzakis said his campaign team consists of business people and residents who want to see a change in how things are done at city hall.
Vogiatzakis would be the seventh person running for mayor in the October civic election. Former St. Vital councillor Gord Steeves is the only one who has made a formal announcement. Coun. John Orlikow said he will announce his candidacy. Lawyer Brian Bowman, and former MLA and MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who ran againt Katz in 2010, are expected to run. Coun. Scott Fielding, who issues campaign-like statements, said he's considering a mayoral bid. Coun. Paula Havixbeck has repeatedly hinted she is considering a run.