Most people Rick Karp’s age are getting ready to retire, but, at 65, the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is looking to start a new career.
Karp announced yesterday he’ll be running for mayor of Whitehorse this fall.
“I know that the people on city council care for our city, I know that the people working for the city are committed, but I feel that the next few years are so critical for Whitehorse that it’s time for change, a time for a new direction,” he said.
It’s the first time he’s ever run for elected office. With eight years’ experience working for the chamber of commerce, he feels ready for the job.
“I think I’ve been in preparation for this for a lot of years,” he said. “Everything that I’ve done in Whitehorse – from McDonald’s, to working with Carcross/Tagish First Nation on their resort down there, from doing the chamber of commerce for the last eight years – there’s been so much interaction with the city, dealing with council members, with the mayor, I know how it works.”
Born and raised in Ottawa, Karp and his wife Joy moved to Whitehorse in 1986 to open a McDonald’s franchise. It was a big career change for the former high school teacher.
“It was quite an experience,” he said. “Like most of us in Whitehorse, we only planned to stay a few years, but here we still are, 26 years later.”
They also raised two children in the city.
The couple no longer owns the McDonald’s, but has stayed active in the business community.
In 2002, he and his wife opened a hair salon, Hair Sensations, which they still operate. A couple of years later, Karp took over as the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.
As chamber president, Karp has had a chance to work closely with the city on a number of issues, from the creation of the Official Community Plan, lobbying for lower taxes, parking in the downtown, to the creation of incentive programs for affordable housing.
Affordable housing is an issue that the city needs to tackle right away, said Karp.
“This is something that we must resolve now,” he said. “I don’t think that it’s happening fast enough.”
The lack of rental units in the city isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s stifling business and contributing to the territory’s labour shortage, he said.
“Every day we get people calling the chamber saying, ‘I want to come to Whitehorse. What’s the housing like?’”
The city can’t do it alone. The territory needs to look at the municipal transfer payments, said Karp. That’s something it needs to consider as it starts rewriting the Municipal Act.
“Whitehorse is 70 to 80 per cent of Yukon and we need to have more coming to Whitehorse so we can facilitate the growth properly,” he said.
This run for office is something that Karp has been considering for some time. So far he’s been very pleased by the level of support he’s received from the public, the business community and even some members of city council, he said.
Karp will continue to work for the chamber until closer to the election, but will no longer be speaking for the organization. The chamber’s chairman, Gerrard Fleming, will be taking over that role in the meantime.
Yukon municipal elections will be held in October.
Karp is the first Whitehorse mayoral candidate to declare.
Mayor Bev Buckway wouldn’t say whether or not she’ll be seeking another term.
“I haven’t made that decision yet,” she said.
With interviews for the new city manager underway and the city’s organizational review ongoing, Buckway said she is, “kind of consumed with that at the moment.”
Although, she said she’s glad to see someone step up to the plate.
“I’m delighted that there’s some candidates coming forward,” said Buckway. “It’s always better when you have a contested race.
“I’m hoping that it’s a clean campaign, and that we don’t get into the personal attacks that some of the other orders of government engage in.”
Her word of advice to those thinking of running is to get in touch with city council.
“Anyone of us would be happy to spend time with a prospective candidate and talk about the commitment, because it’s a lot more time than people expect it’s going to be,” she said.
Contact Josh Kerr at