After nearly a decade in public office, Penticton Mayor Garry Litke tearfully announced Tuesday he is not running in the upcoming municipal election.
Reading from a prepared statement on the steps of city hall with wife Kendra nearby, Litke spoke of his many challenges and accomplishments during his two terms as councillor and 13 months as mayor.
“Nine years was a good run, especially the last chapter as mayor. I feel very good about many of the things that were accomplished,” said Litke, 65. “I have been very happy with the way I’ve been able to influence the direction of this community from the South Okanagan Events Centre to the new community pool to the (Lakeshore) walkway but even more importantly, to creating a vision for this community that it did not have before.”
Currently there are two confirmed candidates for mayor, Couns. Andrew Jakubeit and John Vassilaki. Both were at the announcement.
Litke also touched on some of the negative issues he “inherited” when he took over the duties of mayor in 2013 after winning the by-election when then-mayor Dan Ashton won the vote for MLA.
“At times I felt like a juggler who had a dozen plates spinning on the end of a dozen different sticks all at the same time,” he said.
Specifically he pointed to the Eckhardt Avenue property which the mayor accused the developer of leaving “high and dry” after starting to build what was to be a dormitory.
That, and the other matter he included in the list, the issue with the Penticton Hospitality Association (PHA), both resulted in litigation against the city.
The money-losing Challenge Penticton Canada triathlon and a council decision (when he was absent) not to replace two retiring firefighters were also included in his major challenges.
While the city did lose its case with the PHA regarding breach of contract, Litke indicated progress is being made on the Eckhardt property and is expecting an announcement soon.
“Now, we move into an election period,” he said. “There will be some who choose to focus on the negative, such as PHA accountability or a clerical error on tax notices. It is important to learn from mistakes but those who are continually looking backward are usually moving in that same direction. The only vision they have is hindsight.”
On the positive side, getting Westjet for a Penticton-Calgary service, hospital expansion, Martin Street revitalization and the successful contract negotiations with Global Spectrum, the Vees hockey club, CUPE, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the firefighters, all without significant tax increases, were included.
Another item he is working on, and will continue to even after leaving office, is the attraction of another “high-end” hotel for the city.
However, Litke stressed it is vital to him, as it should be for any candidate, such a facility should not result in any encroachment on public beaches or diminishment of waterfront.
Although he stated, at least at this stage, he is not backing any candidate, Litke did have some words of advice for those casting ballots Nov. 15.
“We need a mayor and councillors who have a positive vision of prosperity and vibrancy,” he said. “In the upcoming election, please vote for people with a proven record of personal and professional integrity who have the time to commit.”
For the future, the out-going mayor plans to spend more time with family and continue with his successful mediation career.
“I am very proud to have been mayor of Penticton but it’s time for the next chapter of my life,” he said. “There are new challenges, exciting opportunities.
“I’m ready to move on.”