Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday was the last for Penticton’s youngest councillor, ensuring there will be at least one new face when council reconvenes after the municipal elections in November.
Wes Hopkin, announced last week that he is resigning his seat as of Aug. 8, well in advance of the fall municipal elections.
Hopkin, who is now 25 years old, was elected to council in 2011 at the age of 22. Instead of running for re-election, the Harvard graduate is going back to school and entering the law program at the University of Toronto.
“I’ve wanted to go back to law school for a time,” said Hopkin, who has been working through the application process for the last year.
“It has sort of been in the back of my mind for a while, but the official decision and being able to get in and where to go, that wasn’t really made until some time in the late spring.”
Hopkin said the timing works out well. Though he isn’t finishing his term, his resignation won’t trigger a by-election.
“I wasn’t able to quite finish, but it is basically only a couple of months left. Things get kind of silly in that last month anyway,” he said. Hopkin added that his time as a politician has been, “interesting, slightly aggravating but ultimately a very rewarding experience.”
“Running for council and being elected is really a crash course in your community. I grew up in Penticton, so I thought I had a pretty good understanding of how everything worked, but there were some areas where I didn’t understand, neighbourhoods that I hadn’t gone to or didn’t spend a lot of time in,” he said.
Hopkin was also surprised how much of council’s time was taken up by “trivia” or “controversial, but at the end of the day, not all that important issues.”
“I have probably got more phone calls and emails about the deer or about chickens than I ever had about the budget or downtown or the waterfront, major projects we have been doing,” he said. “It is kind of funny the issues we hear from constituents on.”
“All in all it has been a very rewarding experience to be part of projects like the downtown and the waterfront that are important investments in the community that are going to be there, hopefully, for decades,” he said. “It is something I am very proud to have been a part of and was really inspired because of the engagement we did with the community.”
Law school, followed by entry into politics, is the more common path, but Hopkin said reversing the pattern has given him valuable experience.
“I definitely think it will inform my understanding of how the people who made the laws intended for them to be followed and interpreted,” he said, adding that he has also gained experience in dealing with legal matters at the council table and how laws and legislation limit what they can, or can’t, do.
“Understanding how that works, and the effects that has, has certainly been an enlightening experience,” Hopkin said. “I am quite excited to go to law school and see how it works from the other side.”