As Rick Karp’s role as president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce comes to a close, he’s gearing up for another role he hopes Whitehorse voters will elect him to: that of mayor.
This morning, Karp formally announced his long-rumoured candidacy in the Oct. 18 municipal election, marking his second run at the mayoralty.
“I want to bring all of my energy and experience to help lead the city into the future,” he told reporters and supporters who gathered outside the chamber’s building downtown for the announcement.
In 2012, Karp placed second (with 1,100 votes) among five mayoral candidates. Current Mayor Dan Curtis was elected to his first term in office that year, with 2,375 votes.
While Karp wasn’t successful in his 2012 run, he noted today that it was just days before the vote that he realized his wife, Joy, who was seriously ill, would need more care.
In the years since, he became her caregiver while remaining in his role at the chamber.
Joy died last September. Earlier this year, Karp decided he would end his career at the chamber, believing it’s time for new leadership there. He announced his plans to retire from the chamber earlier this year, with his last day there being Tuesday.
Now is the right time for him to seek the mayoralty and work toward leading the city, he said.
He recalled his 32 years in the city, going back to when he and Joy arrived from Ontario as the owners of the first local McDonald’s franchise on Fourth Avenue.
That gave them the chance to support many community initiatives. They included making the Yukon Arts Centre wheelchair-accessible, introducing the Special Olympics dinner auction to the city and more.
In his 14 years at the chamber, Karp has dealt with both the city and territory on numerous issues that impact the local business community.
“I am proud to be part of our community,” he said.
Among the issues the chamber has dealt with the city on are housing and lot development, affordable accommodation, economic development, transit, snow removal, property and business taxes and tourism.
“I helped develop a working relationship with the city, organizing quarterly meetings between the chamber board, council and senior management,” he said.
“I have presented at city council meetings many times through the years representing the business community, and have worked with many of the senior staff at the city. We have developed an excellent working relationship.”
In stressing the importance of working together and openness at the city, Karp recalled something his wife often said: “Working together works.”
Highlighting his pride in the community, he commented that Whitehorse has a lot going for it.
However, it needs to be prepared for more expansion, with the Conference Board of Canada predicting a growth rate of about six per cent annually for the coming years.
“Let me be clear: our city is in good shape,” Karp said. “We live in Whitehorse and, quite honestly, I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
Karp then outlined 11 areas he would focus on “for making us even stronger than we are now” and preparing for the coming years.
Among them would be:
• listening to people in the community and finding out what they see as the primary issues that need attention;
• resolving the affordable housing issue;
• working with the territory to develop a two-year supply of lots;
• building on the relationship and work already underway with the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council through initiatives like Housing First, and Safe At Home along with others that may develop in the future;
• resolving homelessness;
• downtown parking issues;
• reviewing the budget process, including reinstating the financial advisory committee, which allowed groups like the chamber and others more input into the process;
• more openness; and
• building on existing positive relationships with partners and stakeholders in looking at how to keep the city growing.
He then made a pledge “to work with the people, businesses, and governments and continue to make Whitehorse the best place to live and work in Canada.”
Karp is the third candidate to announce his plans to seek the mayoralty.
Curtis told the Star long ago he plans to seek a third term, while Wilf Carter, who unsuccessfully sought the seat in the 2015 vote, has also publicly stated he is making a second bid for the mayor’s chair.
For the councillors’ seats, only incumbent Roslyn Woodcock and former councillor Mike Gladish have confirmed their candidacies for October.