Mayor Dan Curtis disappointed some Whitehorse students this month. Visiting schools to talk about the electoral process, he had to break it to them that the mayor isn’t actually in charge of the city — that the mayor is just one of seven equal voices around the council table.
“They were disappointed when I said that the mayor has one employee,” he told the News on Oct. 9. However, he said, collaboration is part of the reason he loves the role.
Curtis is one of five candidates running for mayor of Whitehorse on Oct. 18. He said the decision to run again was a no-brainer.
“I just can’t imagine why anybody wouldn’t want to run. It’s such an amazing city and I feel really blessed every year to be mayor of my hometown,” he said.
Even if he isn’t re-elected, Curtis said he’s proud of the work council has done in the last three years. He said he’s happy with the relationships municipal government has built with the territorial and federal governments. He’s also particularly pleased with the relationship that’s been built with the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.
When he was first elected in 2012, he said he was told he’d never see the mayor sit down with both the premier and the grand chief.
Curtis said that’s happened a number of times during his term (including as part of a millennial town hall on leadership in February 2018).
He said his predecessor, Bev Buckway, met with the chief of KDFN once. Curtis said not six days go by without him talking to chief Doris Bill, or Kristina Kane, chief of TKC. He said he and Bill have been invited to a number of conferences to speak to the way the two levels of government work together.
As for what’s on his radar should he be re-elected, Curtis said ensuring that council gels is one of them. With Coun. Rob Fendrick deciding not to seek re-election, there will be at least one new councillor sworn in. It will take time, he said, for successful candidates to learn how council operates.
Curtis said he also knows housing is a major concern. Whitehorse residents are worried about lot availability, and scarcity of rental units.
He said he recognizes the current situation is not perfect, but he views Whistle Bend (currently home to 1,800) as a success. Still, he said, the city can always do better, and he’d like a new council to always be striving to do just that.
Again, he said, part of that relies, in his mind, on collaboration. An unintended consequence of working closely with the First Nations is that the city can leverage that relationship with the territorial government to bring them onside with plans both the city and First Nations are backing. In that way, he said, council is often looking out for not just Whitehorse, but the whole of the Yukon.
“We have 80 per cent of the population and an obligation to support the rest of the communities,” he said.
The Whitehorse municipal election takes place Oct. 18.
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org