New mayor praises predecessors’ efforts
Dan Curtis is officially Mayor Dan Curtis.
Dan Curtis is officially Mayor Dan Curtis.
And each of the councillors elected in the Oct. 18 vote can now put the title of “councillor” in front of their names.
In a ceremony held Monday evening at city hall, Curtis and the rest of council was sworn in to office.
“It’s exciting to be the mayor of your home town,” he told a standing-room only gallery of people during his welcome speech, which followed the ceremony.
As he did throughout his campaign against four other candidates, Curtis talked about the community where he was born, raised, met his wife in and chose to raise his family in.
“Whitehorse means a great deal to me,” he said, his wife and two teenaged sons sitting in the front row.
Filling council chambers were other family members and friends of Curtis along with family and friends of the other six council members.
They are newcomers Mike Gladish, Jocelyn Curteanu and John Streicker, and returning incumbents Kirk Cameron, Betty Irwin and Dave Stockdale.
City staff rounded out the crowd.
The ceremony kicked off with an honour guard of six city firefighters entering council chambers – three on one side bearing flags while three on the other stood at attention with ceremonial hatchets.
While city manager Stan Westby oversaw the ceremony, Pat Ross, the city’s land development supervisor, took on a different role as the bagpiper leading the procession of council members who followed.
Valerie Anderson, who works as the city’s manager of financial services, also took on another role last night as the justice of the peace who officially swore in each of the council members to their roles.
After Westby welcomed the then mayor-designate and councillor-designates, Anderson had each member repeat their oath of office, followed by the group stating the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Athens together.
Each member then signed their paperwork, officially beginning their three-year term that will end with the next election in October 2015.
Curtis was also presented with the chain of office, which he wore for the remainder of the ceremony, his speech and the short meeting that followed.
Before launching into his praise of the community that he’s now mayor of, Curtis began his speech by acknowledging Whitehorse as the traditional territory of the Ta’an Kwachan Council and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
The capital, he noted, provides a lifestyle that is prized by its residents.
He noted that earlier this month, Lonely Planet listed Whitehorse as the top four places to visit. Personally, Curtis said, he thought that was a little low.
The community has a lot to be grateful for, he added, and the work of previous councils has taken the city to where it is today.
Praising his immediate predecessors, the new mayor noted a “great deal” was accomplished over the last three years, at a time when Whitehorse was the fastest-growing community in Canada.
The city’s next major subdivision – Whistle Bend – was planned with the first lots being made available, other private developments were guided through the city process, and the transit service was revamped.
As well, the new Public Safety Building was constructed and opened, work on waste diversion was done and a reorganization plan aimed at creating efficiencies within the city was completed and is starting to be implemented, Curtis said.
As Whitehorse’s new mayor, he said, it’s his hope to continue that proud tradition of service to the community.
He noted this council has a duty to ensure the lifestyle available in Whitehorse today is there for the future, and with careful planning, he said, this council can meet the challenges of the future.
Before thanking Whitehorse residents for putting their trust in him and the six councillors elected to office, Curtis offered his thanks to his wife, Mona, and two sons for their patience and support throughout his run for office.
After his speech, council then went into full meeting mode. Members presented a united front as they voted unanimously for when councillors will serve as deputy and deputy reserve mayors over the next year and which members will serve on various committees for the city. (See separate story).
Speaking to reporters – between hugs from supporters – after last night’s session, Curtis said that while he had only just become the city’s mayor, he’s been coming into city hall and learning what he could before taking office.
Now former mayor Bev Buckway has been “incredibly generous” with her time and knowledge, as has Westby, Curtis said, describing Westby as a “real treasure”.
He noted prior to being elected, “I thought I was pretty informed.”
In the little more than a week since the election, the new council members have had a two-day session to get to know each other as well as some of the ins and outs of council.
After that, Curtis said he can say everyone elected to council wants the same thing: to be the best council possible, serving the citizens of Whitehorse.
Curtis reiterated his desire to make council and administration a team - one where council provides the vision with city staff there to implement that vision.
For his part, Curtis said, he plans to continue with regular town hall meetings, something he began during his campaign.
As Curtis noted last night, he wants to give residents a chance to speak to him outside of council chambers. He also envisions offering the meetings at different times and locations for residents’ convenience.
As he pointed out, he doesn’t want to wait on issues until they have percolated into bigger matters for residents.
Asked whether the chain of office around his neck felt heavy last night, Curtis was quick to note his joy in the wearing it.
“It feels like helium,” he said with a grin.
Outside council chambers, around a table of goodies like mini-quiches to punch, councillors spoke with their supporters and accepted the congratulations that came their way.
Gladish, who won the final sixth councillor position by just three votes after a recount, described last night as a little unreal and humbling.
“We’re off on the right step,” he said.
He learned a lot in the two days with the rest of council about how differing views can be brought to a conclusion acceptable to everyone, Gladish added.
After Monday night’s meeting and two days with the other members of council, Gladish said he believes this council will be a good team, representing diverse views, but all working for the good of the city.