It was a scene of tears and hugs all round the council table last night as three members took part in their last meeting.
Chief among those doling out hugs was John Vassilaki. After giving his goodbye speech, the 12-year veteran of council got up to hug each member, including Andrew Jakubeit, who defeated Vassilaki in his bid to become mayor. Vassilaki said he would be around, but promised he wouldn’t be a thorn in the side of the new council. He said it will be business as usual for him as he heads back to civilian life.
“I will continue to develop Penticton and improve it as much as I can, just like I have for the last 45 years,” said Vassilaki. “I might be out of the political end of it, but I love Penticton so much that I’ll continue to make sure it goes forward and not backwards.”
Vassilaki is looking forward to getting some rest and spending time with his grandchildren, already making plans to take them on trips to Greece. But he still had some advice for the new council members.
“First and foremost they have to think of the taxpayer before they make those major decisions. That’s how I always voted,” said Vassilaki.
“Just get myself situated and up to speed with the processes around there and how it all works,” Picton said.
Picton was elected with 4,251 votes, followed by Campbell Watt (3,925), Helena Konanz (3,626), Andre Martin (3,090), Judy Sentes (2,890), and Tarik Sayeed (2,786). Jakubeit defeated Vassilaki in the mayor’s race 5,126 to 3,012. The new council will be sworn in at an inaugural meeting on Dec. 2.
“I think everyone needs to keep in mind that nothing is going to happen overnight, but I think with the council that we do have elected, a lot of us are the kind of people that just like to get things done and get moving,” said Picton, who will be resigning his position as chair of the Tourism Penticton board before being sworn in to council.
“I’d like to continue my work with them, I am really proud of where we have gotten that organization since I came on board,” said Picton. “I know Mayor Jakubeit has his sights set on creating the mayoral select committees, one of them being tourism based, so I am certainly hoping to be involved in that capacity.”
Watt is another that has resignations to make. The president of both the Downtown Penticton Association and the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, he was preparing to write thank you and resignations to both on Monday morning. He is also planning to use the weeks leading up to the inaugural meeting to get a feel for what is expected.
“Once our feet are planted, we can push forward,” said Campbell.
One incumbent that won’t be returning is Katie Robinson (1944) who came in eighth out of the 25 council candidates. Robinson said she was surprised by the result, but doesn’t think her “head banging druggies” comment in relation to the Boonstock Music Festival played a part in her loss.
“I wish I hadn’t said it, but there are worse things to be known for than standing up for law and order,” said Robinson. “From the people I have talked to, they felt that was much ado about nothing.”
Robinson was another that shed some tears during her final council meeting Monday, especially when it came to thanking staff.
“It is hard to talk about the staff without getting emotional because they just put up with so much,” said Robinson. “The city hall bashing that has been going on in this city for the last year or so is mind-boggling.”
Organic farmer and first-time candidate Ryan Foster didn’t make it onto council, but still drew 2,090 votes. He plans to stay involved and promote his ideas, focusing on concepts of local sustainability in food and health.
“It was a long time before the election that I was doing that and it will continue long after the election,” said Foster. “I think I did really well, considering I was a nobody coming out of nowhere.”