Byelection set for Penticton mayor

Date to elect a new mayor for Penticton has been set, but only one of the sitting councillors is planning to give up his seat

Penticton acting mayor Garry Litke said he intends on running in the byelection which is scheduled to take place on Sept. 7.

Penticton acting mayor Garry Litke said he intends on running in the byelection which is scheduled to take place on Sept. 7.

The date to elect a new mayor for Penticton  has been set, but only one of the sitting councillors is planning to give up his seat to run in the byelection.

Penticton city council voted Tuesday evening to set the machinery in motion for a Sept. 7 election to replace Dan Ashton, with a nomination period of July 23 to Aug. 2. That allows potential candidates in the community a bit more than four weeks to make up their minds, but elected officials have only until July 8, to hand in their resignation if they wish to run.

While five of the councillors have said they won’t be seeking the mayor’s chair, acting mayor Garry Litke intends to run for the vacant seat. Litke plans to delay his resignation until the last possible moment.

“There are some significant things still left to be done,” said Litke, listing both electing a new chair and vice-chair for the RDOS on Thursday.

“The City of Penticton has four votes and it’s important all four of those votes are utilized,” said Litke, adding that he is also on the hospital steering committee, which is in the process of a request for proposals on the new expansion.

“I needed to stick around for that,” said Litke, adding that there is also another city council matter to deal with.

“There is at least three events that are happening this week that required me to stay on until I was actually required to resign,” said Litke.

Council also moved their next regular meeting to July 22, because of concerns about having quorum on July 15.

“If any councillor wish to run for mayor, they must resign, so that deadline for resignation will be next Monday,” said Litke. “And at least one other councillor will be out of town on that date, so that leaves only four left around the table. That is just barely a quorum and if someone should fall ill, we wouldn’t be able to operate.”

Coun. John Vassilaki, a 10-year veteran of council, said he has never been tempted by the mayor’s position.

“I won’t be able to say what I want to say if I don’t stay where I am,” said Vassilaki. “For the community, I can do more as a councillor than as a mayor.”

Julius Bloomfield, who was only 146 votes behind Ashton in the 2011 municipal election, has said he won’t run for office. While he is not giving up his political ambitions, Bloomfield said his time is fully taken up managing the Naramata Inn, along with his real estate career.

“I am happy and extremely busy running the inn,” said Bloomfield. “Not this time around.”

Katie Robinson, who came in third in the 2011 race, said she plans to run for the councillor seat vacated by Litke. As a former councillor, she feels she can easily fill the position for the year remaining in this mandate.

“I’ve been on council before, so they are going to need someone who can hit the ground running,” said Robinson.

The decision to hold the election on Sept. 7 did not come easily. Couns. Judy Sentes and Jakubeit voted against the day, concerned that  voters would be too busy to pay attention during the busy tourism season.

“It’s kind of chaotic and I don’t think we are going to get the engagement with our community that this position deserves,” said Jakubeit. The rest of council preferred to have the election done with sooner.

Coun. Helena Konanz said that it has been election season for too long in Penticton, and the community needs to get this election over with, a sentiment echoed by Litke. He said he was tired of not having a clear answer when people asked.

“I’ve been having to answer with a vague response for far too long. People are looking for an answer,” said Litke.

Former mayor Dan Ashton resigned in June, following his election to the provincial government.

Should Litke resign to run for the mayoralty, there will also be an opportunity to fill a councillor vacancy.

To run as a candidate for Penticton mayor or council, candidates must be nominated by two people who are qualified to vote — either as resident or non-resident property electors — in the city.