New home construction in north end of Dawson City does little to meet pent up demand. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

New home construction in north end of Dawson City does little to meet pent up demand. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

Wayne Potoroka not seeking re-election as Dawson City mayor

“We are constrained by a lack of imagination” says outgoing mayor of Dawson City on the town’s lot shortage

Dawson City will be electing a new mayor on Oct. 21.

Wayne Potoroka, who served three terms on council before serving three terms as mayor, will not be putting his name forward for another three-year term. He looks forward to a new generation of municipal leaders helping set the direction for the town.

“This isn’t a lifetime job,”’ Potoroka said on Sept. 7. “You’ve got to be encouraging the next group to be stepping up. That’s important.”

Potoroka also said, “I don’t think I’m done. Maybe there will be a chance for me to come back in some other iteration. I’m not sure. But right now, I just think it would be great to see the next generation step up and pull the cart for a while.”

Potoroka wanted to make two things clear — one, that even though public service processes take time, serving is immensely worthwhile; and two, that Dawson City needs more lots. The two points are related.

On the first matter, he says that public service is “super rewarding. You can get lots of things done, you can do things and impact change that really means something to people.”

On the second, he said “We’ve got to bring lots to market so that the next generation of Dawsonites and those living here right now, have a place to sink some roots.

“That is core to all of our issues, in my opinion, making sure that you have space for new neighbors and to preserve the properties of those that are already living here as well.”

Potoroka believes that Dawson made some strides that acted as a bit of a relief valve to alleviate some housing pressures and to buy some time, but is clear that “we are not keeping up.”

Ongoing studies by the Klondike Development Corporation report a huge housing supply gap. As well, a recently commissioned report by Stantec on the best use of a downtown city block states “the supply of building lots in Dawson City has been restricted for so long that the supply of 20 new residential building lots will be nowhere near sufficient to offset pent-up and future demand.”

“At a time when mortgage borrowing rates are at 50-year lows, the acute shortage of building lots in Dawson City is resulting in an entire generation of young Dawson residents being shut out of homeownership opportunities,” the report continued.

“That is really hard to read,” said Potoroka. “Generations of Dawson kids haven’t been able to access that opportunity because there’s no land.”

Dawson signed a land development protocol agreement with the territorial government eight years ago hoping to pull some land planning expertise into the community.

“I know they’re overworked. But it’s just been a long time. It’s been over a quarter of a century since we’ve seen some significant development.

“I think that 555 kilometres is a difficult gap to overcome sometimes,” mulled Potoroka. “But I think that we’ve got to get better at it. It’s got to be faster.”

He believes the two levels of government need to find a better way forward.

“We are not constrained by geography; we are constrained by a lack of imagination.”

But the hardest part is the speed with which things sometimes move.

Still, Potoroka, with his combination of gravitas and optimism, is convinced that municipal government is the one level of government where you can actually get things accomplished.

And so, for those who are thinking of running in the upcoming election?

Potoroka firmly believes that municipal government is “a meaningful experience, that will leave them feeling enriched and fulfilled and rewarded in many ways.”

After over 15 years in municipal governance, Potoroka says the rewards for future leaders are many.

“Not the least of which is building a community that they want to live in.”

Contact Lawrie Crawford at

Dawson City