Whitehorse Daily Star

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THE FIRST VICTORY – Mayor Dan Curtis and his wife, Mona, are seen on the evening of Oct. 18, 2012, shortly after his first electoral victory was confirmed.

‘It’s been nine years and I still pinch my cheeks’

Mayor Dan Curtis has cherished his nine years on city council.

By Chuck Tobin on October 8, 2021

Mayor Dan Curtis has cherished his nine years on city council.

He’s cherished what he and his elected colleagues have been able to accomplish, with the assistance of city administration.

The city’s administration has been tremendous, top notch, Curtis conveyed in an interview this week on the eve of his retirement from the mayor’s chair after three terms.

Asked about the accomplishments of the last three councils with him as mayor, Curtis begins to name a few – and there are many.

When he took office in 2012, he says, there were three people living in Whistle Bend.

They put together the building consolidation plan that saw the construction of the new Operations Building and the new fire hall.

Reconstruction of city hall is next on the list.

Curtis says they developed the Safe At Home Action Plan that came out of the Safe At Home forum in 2015.

They were able to implement a tax deferral policy to encourage the development of more affordable housing.

They were able to contribute $1 million to the construction of the Challenge building at the escarpment end of Main Street.

Increases in property taxes over the last three years have been held near the cost of inflation.

A committee to bid on hosting the 2027 Canada Winter Games was unveiled.

Since Curtis became mayor, there have been 7,500 more residents move to the city.

As the mayor likes to say, often, “Whitehorse is the best place in the world to live.”

The list of what Curtis and his councils have achieved is long.

“I am very, very proud of what has happened in the last nine years,” he says.

But Curtis says what he is most proud of is the relationship the city has built with the two local First Nations.

He has worked closely with Chief Doris Bill of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Chief Kristina Kane of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.

Relationship-building was a priority for him, he says.

Curtis says he and the two chiefs signed a declaration of commitment in 2015 to work together on matters of social and economic development.

The Welcome to Whitehorse sign written in Southern Tutchone, and the First Nation art on city transit buses, are just a couple of examples of what arose from the declaration of commitment. The declaration hangs on the wall of the mayor’s office.

The 55-year-old Curtis remembers growing up on Centennial Street, in the home still occupied by his mom. He remembers the days when many First Nations citizens, including friends of his, were struggling with everyday life and living conditions.

There’s been a real shift since those days, he says.

“I feel it has changed, the culture has changed enough to move forward with reconciliation.”

Curtis says he and Chief Bill have worked together so much they’ve become friends.

Their working relationship has been admired across the country, as this type of partnership between municipal and First Nation governments is just not common, he says.

He and Bill have been invited to appear in communities across Canada.

“That is something I take a tremendous amount of pride in,” says Curtis.

The relationship with the Yukon government has also been strengthened, he says.

Curtis says what he wanted, and has achieved, is having the other levels of government treat the city as a government.

He says he hasn’t come away without his share of blemishes and bruises.

But overall, “I have enjoyed every second on council.”

He says he never had any aspirations of becoming mayor.

But one day a friend called up and suggested he take a run at it.

Mona, his wife of 33 years, told him back then if he didn’t run, she didn’t want to hear him complaining about the decisions being made by city council.

So he ran, and won in 2012 by a landslide when he received 2,375 votes compared to 1,100 for Whitehorse businessman Rick Karp, his closet competitor in a field of five mayoral candidates.

Being mayor, says Curtis, is involved.

He says it requires dedication, and time, lots of time.

Curtis says he’s been to 450 council meetings over the nine years.

The job is 24-7, he says.

Constituents approach him on the street, or he gets calls at home.

He says everybody has something different on their mind.

“As mayor, I get to hear about all those things,” says Curtis.

The job, he says, has not been without its challenges or disappointments.

There was the work-to-rule initiative by city staff, the city dump fire, the cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games and the impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, he points out.

On the negative side of the job, Curtis says, is the nasty, unwarranted criticism he often faced in conventional media, like letters in the newspapers or on social media. He’s felt like a “whipping boy” at times, he says.

He says he could put up with it, but it was hard on his family to read and hear the sometimes-harsh rebukes.

You don’t get the good times if you don’t put up with the rough times, says Curtis.

“I have enjoyed it immensely,” he says. “It’s been an honour and a privilege. It’s been nine years and I still pinch my cheeks.”

Curtis says he’s hopeful people are kind to the next mayor.

The mayor says he’s tired and that his time at the helm has been exhausting, so after he leaves office following the Oct. 21 municipal elections, he’ll take a couple of weeks to do nothing.

But at 55, he has no plans to retire. He says he still has a mortgage, and still has a family.

The mayor’s job does not come with any severence pay or pension, he notes.

Curtis says he will not forget his time leading the city over the last nine years.

“It is going to be an experience I am going to cherish for the rest of my life.”

Comments (13)

Up 12 Down 2

Ticanyo on Oct 14, 2021 at 10:46 am

Under Dan's reign we saw never ending tax increases to fund his legacy white elephant projects. While citizen struggled he gave himself and council raises.

We need to stop with the massive projects and get back to basics on municipal services like traffic (Mountainview is becoming an unmitigated nightmare with the Whistlebend growth) snow removal and street resurfacing. Stay away from non-municipal issues like 'Global warming' 'Housing' those are under Territorial and Federal control.

Find efficiencies by mandating cuts across ALL departments by 5-10% There is a lot of fat to cut. Do it.

Up 18 Down 7

Nathan Living on Oct 12, 2021 at 3:35 pm

I think Dan started well and did many great things for Whitehorse then got lost a little.
We need a mayor and council that values people with modest incomes and simple expectations for quiet neighborhoods and low crime rates.

Downtown we need safe streets and a hassle free environment.
People should not fear for their lives when crossing a street. Homeowners should not have to put up with trail bike and ATV noise when the operators do not comply with bylaws which are not enforced.

Whitehorse can be a much better place to live in and I think a few stubborn councillors who stand up for taxpayers can help immensely.

Up 10 Down 10

Josey Wales on Oct 12, 2021 at 12:37 pm

Observer...you really need to take off the lens cap.
You make as much sense as Stevie Wonder narrating at a planetarium.

Please do not ever volunteer for search and rescue as I suggest you cannot see a damn thing, based on your moniker and your participation.

Up 12 Down 41

Observer on Oct 11, 2021 at 1:37 pm

Dan Curtis did a fine job as the Mayor of our town. Being the Mayor of this town is not like it was 20 years ago and will never be like that again. Thank god!!

Up 23 Down 6

Whitehorse resident on Oct 10, 2021 at 10:33 pm

To all eligible voters: I read on a CBC north article on the 3 candidates running for mayor. The article outlines the priorities of each candidate. Not ONE candidate has traffic or infrastructure issues as a priority. I’m actually surprised that neither paper has the platforms/priorities of all mayor and council candidates running for office.

Up 31 Down 20

Josey Wales on Oct 9, 2021 at 10:13 am

Hey JSM...true that eh?
Add to it, the pile of corpses that are classified unsolved homicides.
Now we can digest the rot in our core, at 10kph slower for a better picture of the decomposition engineered by many wizards.

Whew, thank gawd our civic team has public safety at the forefront and strives for perfection in their quest for our public safety.
Apologies for vaporizing any sarcasm meters...
Write a book now Dan, nine years of living in fantasy land...some good fiction may come?
Or use it as a guidebook for team red moving forward, they love fiction better than Walt Disney.

Up 47 Down 14

Jack on Oct 9, 2021 at 2:41 am

Next stop......real estate agent.

Up 59 Down 9

What Whitehorse RUin on Oct 9, 2021 at 1:46 am

Whitehorse downtown is a mess with all the poor planning around Salvation Army, not so safe injection site in a residential neighbourhood on one side of town and now the newly approved by Dan and pals Get-High Country Inn on the other side. Add a healthy dose of robberies, break and enters, daily police presence on Main Street dealing with violence. SURE Whitehrose is a great place.

Up 55 Down 10

Good bye already on Oct 8, 2021 at 8:41 pm

You have done absolutely NOTHING regarding ongoing traffic issues, infrastructure issues as well as a secondary entrance/exit for Riverdale in your 9 years in office.

Up 47 Down 15

Wilf Carter on Oct 8, 2021 at 4:58 pm

Dan Curtis told residents that the new operation building and reno to town hall would cost $55 million when it really cost $90. Curtis let our streets and roads fall apart. Just look at the Riverdale bridge. He did nothing of any great meaning on land development or housing. What did he do for economic development to support the growth of our city.

Up 47 Down 27

Josey Wales on Oct 8, 2021 at 4:29 pm

Hey you...outta our hall already.
If you must, take one of the automatic back patting machines home with you. We not only have a few more, we got nothing but money here...till the COW comes calling...then not so much.

Up 66 Down 16

JSM on Oct 8, 2021 at 4:21 pm

“Whitehorse is the best place in the world to live.”
Hard to agree when our seniors and businesses are being robbed daily

Up 58 Down 24

Juniper Jackson on Oct 8, 2021 at 3:40 pm

Good bye already.

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