Whitehorse city council did not get out of the final meeting of its term without some new and unfinished business to deal with.
It was under new business that Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, who is currently taking her turn as deputy mayor, declared she had a short presentation to make on behalf of council and administration. It was there that Mayor Dan Curtis was surprised to be presented with a piece of glass artwork from his fellow council members and city administration to celebrate his nine years as mayor.
Curteanu pointed out it was the last regular meeting for this council and that means saying good-bye to the city’s longest serving mayor (Curtis is not running again). Prior to Curtis, the longest-serving mayor had been Don Branigan, who was in office for more than seven years from January 1984 to November 1991.
Curtis was first elected in 2012 and has served as three terms — or nine years — as the mayor of his hometown.
“You’ve played an important role,” Curteanu told him, going on to highlight the many changes the city has seen during his time in office.
In that time, Whitehorse has seen a 20 per cent increase in its population, Whistle Bend has quickly become the fastest growing neighbourhood in the city, and there was the construction and opening of the new operations building off Range Road and the new downtown fire hall with continued planning on a new city hall and services building at the city’s Second Avenue location. It’s anticipated the new services building and city hall will be built in the coming years.
Curteanu credited Curtis for his leadership that’s been “critically important” to improving relationships between the city and First Nations governments through initiatives like the Moving Forward Together event in 2018 and the Declaration of Commitment signed with the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.
She also said under his leadership efforts have been made to keep property taxes low, the community has been engaged through events like town halls, and diversity and inclusiveness has been demonstrated (particularly thanks to a 2017 viral video of Curtis learning Bhangra with Gurdeep Pandher inside council chambers, Curteanu pointed out).
All that, and Curtis has also attended thousands of events in the community over the last nine years, Curteanu said.
It’s in recognition of that work that the glass artwork presented to Curtis was produced by Lumel Studios. As Curteanu told Curtis, each part of the piece is representative.
“This piece from Lumel Studios was built around a paint brush to represent the wide swath of contributions you have made to our community as mayor,” she said. “The colours of the bristles represent your support for diversity and inclusion. These colours represent First Nations, the downtown crosswalks and the Yukon River.”
A fat tire on the piece symbolizes the trails, greenways and green initiatives of the city with the homes and buildings representing housing and infrastructure.
“And lastly, the heart represents the love you have consistently shown for our community,” Curteanu said.
After receiving the piece, a surprised Curtis commented that this is one of the few times he’s been lost for words.
“I’m sincerely touched,” he said, noting the artwork is one thing he won’t be leaving at city hall when he leaves.
He went on to thank his family, who were seated inside chambers for the presentation, as well as council and city staff.
“Nothing could be done without family,” he said, pointing out his sons were “barely teenagers” when he was first elected to office.
Curtis went on to wish the next mayor and council well and again state his thanks before hitting the gavel and declaring the final regular council meeting of the term adjourned.
In an interview following the meeting, Curtis again stressed that work done over his nine years has been a team effort.
Asked about what is standing out for him as he gets ready to leave office, Curtis said he hasn’t had a chance to really look in the rear view mirror, but he has been pleased that diversity in Whitehorse is being seen across Canada, as well as the city’s relationship with First Nations.
While grateful, Curtis acknowledged his time on council hasn’t always been easy.
“It’s been a challenging term,” he said of the past three years, citing COVID-19 in particular.
Asked if he had any advise for those running for office, he said it’s not helpful to be divisive, but rather better to be able to find a way to work together. He also cautioned incoming council members to “respond, not react”, noting he has made that error himself.
While no more meetings are scheduled for this term, the current council will remain in their roles until the new council is sworn in on Nov. 1.
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