Betty Irwin at city council in Whitehorse on May 28. Irwin announced Sept. 4 she will be seeking re-election during the 2018 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Betty Irwin wants another term on Whitehorse City Council

Irwin plans to run for re-election this October

Don’t ask Betty Irwin if she’s ever considered running for mayor. The three-term Whitehorse city councillor will narrow her eyes at you, lean forward and state loudly and clearly – no.

“I’ve never entertained that,” she told the News on Sept. 4, the same day she announced she would seek a fourth back-to-back term as a coucillor. “I see what the mayor duties are and what (Mayor Dan Curtis) has to do and this is not where I live.”

Irwin doesn’t want to make the speeches, or show up at the presentations. She’s much happier digging into documents and reports and trying to reach consensus with her fellow councillors.

“You should have seven people on council who all have different priorities, different visions and different interests because that means, hopefully, that a lot of citizenry is represented. If you had everybody thinking along the same lines, that wouldn’t be good. And it’s just a matter of sitting down and you can always reach a compromise. You can. And that in itself is a very rewarding process … when people give and take and you come up with a different direction.”

The big reason Irwin, one of the founding members of Yukon Women in Trades, and director of the Humane Society Yukon and the Golden Age Society, is running again though, is that she loves the job.

“I’m a governance and policy freak. That’s really where I love to be, so watching the way new legislation is formed and the whole process, I love that. I really do.”

She said that when she ran for her first term, she didn’t know what to expect. And what she did expect ended up being much different in practice than in theory. The first six months were like an orientation process.

“If you’re new it takes you six months to even find your way to the damn bathroom. It really does. Because the process is very formal. You have to get used to that and the way meetings are run and also, to find out as a councillor, what you can do and what you can’t do.”

Now she feels like she knows the ins and outs of council. She has watched a handful of projects come to fruition in that time (Whistle Bend), and seen others go from non-issues, to some of the most pressing.

The housing crisis, for example, wasn’t something people were talking about when she started as a councillor. Now it’s the biggest issue there is. She said council needs to keep working with the Yukon government on land development.

Another thing council needs to keep working at is tax levels. She said she thinks council does a good job of holding the tax rate, and would like to continue doing that while still acknowledging that taxes are the price you pay for living in a community. There are associated costs, and at a certain point, if you’re lowering taxes, you’re likely going to be scrapping services.

She said her main objective as a councillor is to keep delivering services and shaping the city with an eye towards what Whitehorse will look like in five years, 10 years, 20 years.

She said she’s excited to focus on the downtown and Marwell plans, as well as the review of the Official Community Plan.

“And, if I do get back on council, I’m going to keep asking operations about our electric buses. Going to keep nagging them about that for sure. I mean, you know, like a terrier when it gets something.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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