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Incoming Whitehorse city council prepares to take office

Training, orientation underway
Ted Laking, Mellisa Murray and Michelle Friesen tour city chambers on Oct. 23. (Laura Cabott/Facebook)

Members of the next Whitehorse city council will take the oath of office on Nov. 1.

While that will mark the formal start to their new roles, training and orientation for the new council is already underway.

Wendy Donnithorne, the city’s manager of legislative services, said in an Oct. 26 interview all seven council members were on-hand for orientation sessions that began Oct. 23, just two days after the vote that saw them elected.

Laura Cabott, currently a councillor, was elected as mayor while incumbents Dan Boyd and Jocelyn Curteanu will return as councillors with newcomers Mellisa Murray, Michelle Friesen, and Ted Laking. Kirk Cameron, who served previously as a councillor, will also be returning to chambers after a six-year absence.

Donnithorne described the weekend orientation sessions as a mix of procedural information, going over meeting formats, background information about municipal governance and the role of council and basic items like accessing council email.

“That all started right away,” she said. “It’s fairly intensive.”

While the first training sessions cover procedures, meeting formats and the like, Donnithorne said over the next couple of months there will also be briefings for council on the “more substantive” matters the city is dealing with such as the updated Official Community Plan.

“They have hit the ground running,” Donnithorne said.

A post on Cabott’s election page shows the three newcomers to council — Murray, Friesen and Laking — receiving a tour of council chambers on Oct. 24.

While council members get set to take on or renew their roles as elected representative at the city, administration is also working to firm up plans for the swearing in ceremony.

“We’re sensitive to all the public health (concerns),” Donnithorne said, adding officials are looking at spacing considerations in light of COVID-19 as well as public health protocols as they firm up plans.

Typically the swearing in is held as a public ceremony with friends and families of the new council members taking in the event.

While Donnithorne said it will remain a formal ceremony, plans are still in the works to determine numbers and spacing inside. Details will be released in the coming days.

On election night, only individual candidates, some administration and members of the media were permitted inside council chambers due to the spacing issue and public health concerns. Most candidates opted to stay home and take in the results with family and/or friends.

Following the formal ceremony where council members take the oath of office, they will move into their first special council meeting.

It’s at that session, members vote on which council member will chair each committee (such as development services, corporate services, planning, operations, community services, and public health and safety) council deals with as well as the order for members serving as deputy mayor and reserve deputy mayor for the coming year.

Those positions are held on a rotating basis by council with each councillor appointed to a two-month stint as deputy mayor while the rotation for the reserve deputy mayor is done on a six-month basis.

The new council will begin its regular meeting schedule on Nov. 8.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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