BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Still on the job

Rob Sawatzky bristles at the suggestion that he’s become a lame duck.

It was just last week that he announced he would not seek a second term as Vernon mayor in November. While some have speculated on what that will mean for his last four months in office, Sawatzky insists it’s business as usual.

“Nothing has changed,” he said during an interview Tuesday.

“I still have all of the same responsibilities and powers. All that has changed is I don’t have to campaign, which means I will have time to focus on the job.”

He remains committed to his pre-election goals, including improving the relationship between Vernon, Coldstream and the regional district.

“We still don’t have the final bylaws in place for the delivery of the new parks model,” he said.

“It’s not exciting but it has to be done. There’s been a lot of effort and good will on the part of three administrations and we have to get it accomplished.”

And the time and resources that have gone into restructuring of parks and recreational facilities have been immense. Countless hours have been spent at meetings as politicians hammered out the concerns of their respective communities. That was then followed by administrators ironing out the fine details and ensuring the plans conform to legal frameworks.

A similar process unfolded with the water utility, and the bottom line is that the working arrangement between the three jurisdictions is the best it’s been in years.

Now you may wonder why the final bylaws confirming the parks model are delayed, but it’s not a local problem.

“We’re having to work with the Ministry of Community Development to get the bylaws approved. There’s been a turn-over (in staff) at the ministry and that’s been difficult,” said Sawatzky.

When asked if he’s concerned if a new round of politicians elected in November may reverse thrusters on parks and recreation, Sawatzky denies that is his focus. He says his predecessor should have a clean slate to start with.

“We need to finish the work we started. It’s our responsibility. We don’t want to leave it to others to finish our work.”

Until those bylaws are inked, Sawatzky is concerned critical projects will not proceed because of uncertainty.

“It’s an important part of moving forward in the delivery of service,” he said.

Beyond parks, Sawatzky wants to spend his last few months in office ensuring Vernon has its house in order.

“How will we maintain and build our infrastructure over the long-term?” he said.

The city is currently in the midst of developing a strategic asset management plan for sidewalks, roads, sewer pipes and public buildings.

The projected price tag is a staggering $80 million, including $6.3 to $6.9 million for roads annually over 10 years. And the impact on the community could be substantial if road lane widths are reduced to decrease maintenance, fewer sidewalks are replaced and ditches in some rural neighbourhoods are installed for drainage.

Obviously infrastructure will dominate the future council’s agenda, but Sawatzky’s goal is to reduce the learning curve so the new council can hit the ground running with asset management.

“It will be a blueprint for years to come.”

Wikipedia describes a lame duck politician as someone, “choosing not to seek another term at the expiration of the current term.”

Obviously Sawatzky has made it clear that he won’t return to office, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be taking a hands-off approach.

Just as he was when he first sat in the mayor’s chair, Sawatzky’s pending departure will see him remain focused.


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