A European think-tank has named Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts as the planet’s fourth-best civic leader, applauding her efforts to clean up what has historically been one of British Columbia’s more troubled communities.

Praising what it described as “her wide-ranging raft of initiatives,” the U.K.-based City Mayors Foundation complimented Watts’s efforts to combat the effects of the worldwide recession, and noted her role in helping transform Surrey from a Lower Mainland city with a reputation as a “‘run-down, drug-infested place’ into a community that now attracts new residents and business.”

“It certainly is quite an honour to be recognized with the mayors from around the world and particularly the mayor that won,” said Watts, referring to the foundation’s top mayor, Mexico City’s Marcelo Ebrard, who has earned international attention for his progressive stances on climate change and gay marriage.

“I have to say, though, that this just isn’t just about me,” she added.

“It’s about the people I work with and a collective effort on behalf of the city.”

Praise is not new to Watts, who routinely tops lists of British Columbia’s most popular politicians, and has been repeatedly courted by offers of higher political office.

Yet the mayor insists that it’s precisely her marked lack of partisan ambition that helps explain her success.

“I’m not a political person and I don’t play politics,” she said.

“I think it’s important to do the right thing, as opposed to something that’s popular or something that moves you ahead politically.”

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