Mayor Dan Curtis is leaving his city office by next autumn. The only question remaining to be answered is just how it will happen.
At a news conference held Thursday afternoon along the Yukon River, and surrounded by an entourage of Premier Sandy Silver and his cabinet ministers, Curtis said he will seek the nomination to run for the Liberals in the Whitehorse Centre riding. It’s currently held by former NDP leader Liz Hanson.
She announced Jan. 5 she is retiring from territorial politics.
Curtis revealed his candidacy with a speech approaching 13 minutes, during which he effusively spoke of his love for the downtown area of Whitehorse and its importance to the territory as a whole.
“Most of you know me as the mayor of this great city, and I’m serving out the final months of my third term,” he said.
“I’m incredibly attached to this community. I love being here right now because 55 years ago, I was born right across the river.
“I have watched our frontier town transform in a buzz of activity. I like to think I’ve had at least a small part over this last decade in this positive change and great work.
“I still wake up every morning with the same gratitude and sense of privilege of serving my home.”
The date for the 2021 election has yet to be set. If it’s called before the end of his term as mayor, Curtis said, he will step down.
Regardless of whether he wins the Whitehorse Centre seat, Curtis said he’s retiring as mayor in the fall.
He said he declared his intentions early to give any prospective mayoral candidates the chance to think about their decision.
The downtown area, Curtis said, “is the crown jewel of our city, and it would be my honour to represent the riding in the legislative assembly.
“I have the experience and knowledge to represent the people of downtown, and I have the passion and dedication to make sure that this neighbourhood has a
strong voice in the government.”
Curtis said his time as mayor has shown him the importance of collaboration.
“A partnership and working together for the good of all Yukoners. I see how much can be accomplished through collaboration with all governments.
“It’s hard to find any infrastructure in this city without the federal and territorial governments helping the municipality,” the mayor added.
“Not just in our municipality, but right throughout the Yukon. For that, we are incredibly grateful.”
As he spoke, Curtis grew more energetic and impassioned – engaging in a little hyperbole as he did so.
“The secret is out. It’s clear that Whitehorse is the best place to live in the entire world.
“The heart of our community is the downtown core. We have to balance a vibrant business district with a safe place to raise our families. I’m so proud of my time as mayor, and I won’t be able to touch on everything the team at the city has accomplished during that time.”
He pointed at the city’s relationship with the local First Nations communities, the new city operations building off Range Road, “of our growth and inclusion,” and Safe At Home initiative as items he considered particularly noteworthy.
“I believe we are still in a very important moment in our community’a history. I hope to be that voice, I hope to bring my experience, my enthusiasm and my love to the momentum that’s already underway in this Liberal team’s work.”
Curtis has run for territorial office once before.
In 2011, before entering municipal politics, he ran for the Liberal party in the Riverdale South riding, where he lives. He didn’t win in that attempt, falling to the NDP’s Jan Stick by more than 100 votes. Stick is now a city councillor.
He acknowledged that history, and said it was an important lesson for him. Curtis said he was philosophical about the result now, as he didn’t think he was truly
prepared for the job at that time.
Now, after his three terms as mayor, Curtis said he is confident he has the background he needs to fill the role properly.
He said he had been contemplating his political future for some time before making his decision.
Once he decided to run, Curtis said he approached the Liberals, rather than being headhunted by the party.
Curtis was a major proponent of the revitalization of the Marwell area – which is the main part of the Whitehorse Centre riding – which he said has brought great
improvement to the community.
“We are very happy that Dan has put his name forward for this nomination,” Silver said in a media release.
“His dedication to the people of Whitehorse has served this city well for almost a decade, and we would be honoured to have him on our team.”
While he attended Curtis’ announcement, Silver did not speak on the nomination process.
Curtis said that while he currently lives in Riverdale, he intends to move back to the downtown core.
Before the pandemic, he and his wife, Mona, had placed a bid on a downtown property, but another interested party offered more.
As for the next election, Curtis said, “only one person knows that,” gesturing to Silver. “And he’s not talking.”
Municipal elections will occur next October.