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Four candidates vie for mayorship in Dawson

With the retirement of the Dawson City’s three-term mayor, Wayne Potoroka, the field is wide open with two former councillors vying for his position along with two contenders. In alphabetical order, they are: Stephen Johnson, Bill Kendrick, Kevin Mendelsohn, and Xen Van Nostrand.
Stephen Johnson, Bill Kendrick, Xen Van Nostrand and Kevin Mendelsohn. (Clockwise from top left)

With the retirement of the Dawson City’s three-term mayor, Wayne Potoroka, the field is wide open with two former councillors vying for his position along with two contenders. In alphabetical order, they are: Stephen Johnson, Bill Kendrick, Kevin Mendelsohn, and Xen Van Nostrand.

Stephen Johnson

Stephen Johnson, former councillor of four terms, sees being fully retired as an opportunity, especially with a “brand spanking new council.” He said Dawson City has a good bank account and needs to get a good plan in place for future lot development. This is his first priority.

“I’m a mining engineer. I retired from active mining, but I’m a mining engineer and spent a lot of time planning. I used to plan open pit mines and waste dumps and reclamation on waste dumps. A solid waste management facility is a landfill for our garbage. And the life of that area is extremely important to me.”

Some of that will be achieved with recycling and good planning to create a longer life for the landfill.

He says lots of different sizes need to made available to all different groups of people – from young families with dogs to renters. He is keeping his eye on the new waste water treatment facility and its proximity to new areas for lot development. He has his eye on the potential of the Dome Road area and the dredge pond subdivision expansion for large country residential.

He is very pleased with the location the current council chose for the new recreation centre.

As a strong proponent of mining and tourism, he also recognizes the arts and culture sector as a tourism driver for the community.

“I like getting people together to work on problems,” Johnson said. “I need other people too with their experience, with their intelligence to temper my thoughts on things, to tell me when I’m doing something goofy, to work things out, that we can all be happy with and proud about.”

Bill Kendrick

Kendrick admits that after 29 years, he is still in love with Dawson City and that, after 11 years on council, he wants to contribute more. Accustomed to taking initiative and asking difficult questions, Kendrick believes that his knowledge of the history of the files coming forward to council will help considerably.

“I know how the Municipal Act works. I know how the meetings work. I know what makes an effective council,” Kendrick said. “The official community plan is our guiding document in a municipality.”

Kendrick identifies building lot availability; housing; waste management; and the new recreation centre as main issues for Dawson.

Then he comes up with ideas and policies to match — a draft vacant and underutilized land tax policy, a waste diversion centre out of town, a comparative land options study, a seasonal campground for young workers, or a small pool he called sauna-sweat and dunk.

Kendrick uses words like open-minded and well-rounded to describe himself and acknowledges that he knows a lot of people in the community. He reminds that he is well aware of roles and key relationships that are part of being a functioning mayor, along with possessing the tact and diplomacy needed to build the relationships with other governments, especially with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the Yukon government.

Kendrick believes in participation, communication and transparency for council and has previously made inroads with broadcasting meetings and bringing the workings of council closer to the community.

Kevin Mendelsohn

As one of two born-and-raised Dawsonites in the mayoral race, Kevin Mendelsohn sees a hometown advantage.

Mendelsohn left Dawson for a short time to pursue his journeyman ticket and now owns his own business as an electrical contractor. He is a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation.

He sees a need to plan for the right housing for different people with different incomes, and sees a need for year-round positions rather than seasonal.

He said he would like to see Dawson develop a waste management system with a weight scale, recycling, blue bins and fees.

Mendelsohn is passionate about recreation and fitness, having known Dawson when it had a youth weight lifting facility and kick boxing. He wants all the sport passions in one spot, with a full-time gym and studio space for dancing and yoga.

He’s also realistic that Dawson will need to source funding from many places to make it happen.

“I want to help focus on the health and well-being of Dawson citizens making sure they have adequate space and, and facilities to be able to do the things they love.”

Xen Van Nostrand

Xen Van Nostrand is the youngest of the candidates, having just graduated from Grade 12 at the Robert Service School. He is committed to having conversations and listening to the people in the town he was born and raised in. He knows that he would be asking for implementation advice and says he expects to work closely with other council members and the entire community.

The main issues he identified are waste management, housing and childcare. He is a strong advocate for the importance of recycling as a way to manage waste. He understands the need for affordable building lots to house people since so much new construction is underway.

And, he is glad there is a new childcare centre opening in the community.

“What I want is for all those parents to have a place where they can affordably have their daycare for the kids, so they can go back to work and continue getting income.”

He adds that housing and childcare are directly challenging the community’s ability to attract and retain people.

Van Nostrand says that as an apprentice electrician, he has “a very big interest in power, sustainable energy and new technologies coming out in that field.” He sees many possibilities in lots of areas and is optimistic about the community he knows so well.

Election Day is October 21. Four council positions have been acclaimed. They are: Alexander Somerville, Patrik Pikalek, Elizabeth Archbold, and Brennan Lister.

Contact Lawrie Crawford at