Now that the dust has settled and a new council embarks on a three-year term, I would like to express my appreciation for Mayor Dan Curtis.
True to form, at the last meeting of the outgoing council, Dan highlighted the “team” and gave a personal nod to each councillor, thanking us for our particular contributions. I realized later that nobody properly thanked the mayor.
For me, the one trait that made Dan a true leader and an exceptional mayor was his lack of ego. He would always make council or individual councillors the focus of his speech, when talking about accomplishments. He ensured that he always acknowledged councillors if they were in attendance at public gatherings.
Dan respected the advice given to him by any of the councillors and often met with us in his office to share information or ask for feedback.
The role of mayor is not easy. There is protocol to figure out and procedures have to be learned. Protocol and procedures are very important for city council to work properly, with decorum and respect. At the start of the term, Dan stumbled on some of the protocol but he looked to others for help and accepted it graciously. He was able to make mistakes and keep his sense of humour and dignity.
And then there is public opinion. The mayor tends to take the brunt of negative reaction when a decision is not popular and there is plenty of negative feedback. But Mayor Curtis was always quick to share the credit with council when public reaction was positive.
Being mayor means that you have to be informed and make decisions about all aspects of the city governance and operations. It doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert on all things. You have to allow and trust city staff to do their jobs. You have to understand the operations so that you can answer questions or find the answers quickly when citizens are asking. Dan had an amazing grasp of the city’s day-to-day operations and our relationships with other governments and businesses.
The mayor also has to understand strategic planning and be willing to work with a team of six councillors to create a three-year plan for Whitehorse. Mayor Curtis was always one to think about the bottom line and ensured that planning was about affordable, realistic goals. And he wanted to make sure that decisions were made to benefit Whitehorse citizens in the short and long term. Council’s vision has to go beyond the three-year term so consideration was always given to the next five years and even the next 50 years.
Finally, being mayor is about being at many events each week. Mayor Curtis was always available to speak at special events and always represented our city in a heartfelt, down-to-earth style.
Dan has been the epitome of a good mayor. His vote was only one vote of seven, and he did not put himself above the rest of council. He treated council like a team and was not threatened by councillors who had more expertise in some areas – in fact, he celebrated that input, showing true leadership. Above all, he loves this city and showed it all the time.
Thanks a lot Dan Curtis for your three years as mayor and good luck with the next three.