John Vassilaki may be the oldest candidate running for mayor, but not in his own mind.
“I am the most vibrant person who is going to be running for the new council,” said Vassilaki. “I am the type of a person that wants nothing but the best for this city and I will work my heart out to make sure it happens.”
There weren’t any “Make Penticton Great Again” caps on display at Vassilaki’s announcement of his mayoral campaign Thursday, but the rally atmosphere was there, with Kyle Anderson performing some classic rock and getting the crowd excited as Vassilaki worked through them, shaking hands and greeting old friends and new.
“Look at the crowd. I didn’t have this large of a crowd last time around,” said Vassilaki. “I am so happy and enthused that you people are here and you have so much confidence in me.”
About 100 people turned out to hear Vassilaki’s announcement he was going to make another run for the mayor’s chair. The businessman and landowner ran for mayor in 2014 after 12 years as a Penticton city councillor, garnering 3,012 votes to Mayor Andrew Jakubeit’s 5,126 votes.
Vassilaki’s goal, if elected, is to take a long-range view for the City of Penticton, looking for decisions to be in the interest of future generations.
“As a businessman for more than five decades, I want you to know that I understand how to work with budgets and how to leverage resources,” said Vassilaki. “As a civil servant (councillor) for 12 years, I want you to know my passion is all about the success of this city. Next to my family, there is nothing I love more.”
Vassilaki said his campaign, and time as mayor, would focus on safety, prosperity and community assets. In terms of safety, Vassilaki said he has heard from others and personally experienced that crime has risen to an unacceptable level.
“Professional thieves are trolling our back allies, con artists are knocking on our doors. There is a revolving door of criminals that have no fear,” he told the crowd, adding that he recognizes that B.C. communities are experiencing an epidemic of homelessness and mental health issues.
Penticton needs to do its part in dealing with that crisis, he said.
“We will not be successful with social initiatives if we don’t put our foot down on premeditated crime,” said Vassilaki. “We need to invest in solutions, we need to evaluate our current policing model, our current bylaw operations and get creative with security options.
“We need to get this under control now.”
To increase prosperity in Penticton, which Vassilaki said ranks in the bottom five for household income in B.C., he said the city can help by encouraging investment in the industrial area, recruiting new clean businesses and ensuring there is appropriate housing for growth.
“By finding ways we can leverage all the talent that has chosen to move to our area and to help grow products and technologies around what we are known for: agriculture and tourism,” said Vassilaki.
For community assets, Vassilaki brought up the controversy over leasing a portion of Skaha Lake Park to a private developer.
“We all know how that turned out,” said Vassilaki, adding that the city needs to consistently review such things with the community, whether it be buildings or infrastructure.
“Community assets are long-term investments and needed to be treated with great care for our future generations,” he said. “I believe that we can put energy, budget and policies in place that will build a safer home, more prosperous systems and long-term assets for future generations.”
Former MLA Jim Hewitt was one of the people that turned out to support Vassilaki.
“He’s a good man and he has contributed a lot to this city,” said Hewitt, who was the Social Credit MLA for Boundary-Similkameen from 1975 to 1988. “If he wants to do it for four years, good luck to him.”
Vassilaki is the third to declare his candidacy for Penticton mayor, joining incumbent Andrew Jakubeit and businessman Jason Cox.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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