In what was described as the start of a new tradition, the City of Castlegar recognized its outgoing mayor and all other living former mayors.
The ceremony Monday at the final meeting of the current council saw inscribed gavels presented to Kirk Duff, Bruno Tassone, Lawrence Chernoff, Mike O’Connor, and Audrey Moore. Duff and Chernoff both served on council under O’Connor and Moore, and Duff under Chernoff.
Moore was first elected in 1977. She was both the first woman to hold the job and remains the city’s longest serving mayor, at slightly less than 17 years.
“Being mayor was a privilege and a joy,” she said. “I had all sorts of good help. I think we’re all lucky to live in this city, where if you want one volunteer, six respond.”
Moore recalled that when she was first elected to council, then-mayor Ed Mosby was perplexed over what to call her, since councillors were then known as aldermen. He settled on “alderthing.”
She called Castlegar “a city with [a] heart. It has always had one and always will. As long as we look after each other we can accomplish anything … You can’t do anything alone, you need lots of help and sometimes some patience. But this city is worth it.”
Listen to Audrey Moore’s full speech:
Lawrence Chernoff, who narrowly lost a bid to return to the mayor’s seat on Saturday, noted he has spent 28 years in local politics. He started as a councillor in 1987 and then served as mayor from 2005-18.
“It’s something I had a passion for, something I enjoyed. It’s about relationships, the things you do, but mostly about the community.”
He echoed Moore’s comments about the city’s volunteer spirit, pointing to initiatives such as Communities in Bloom and Sculpturewalk.
Chernoff also said a key part of the job is simply listening to people on the street or while grocery shopping.
“If you get a phone call at 11 at night, do you pick up? Yes, you pick up. Because that’s who you’re representing: the people of Castlegar.”
Duff, who did not seek re-election for health reasons, was first elected to Kimberley council in 1984 at age 24. Two years later he gave up a safe seat to ran for mayor, “and got trounced” by Jim Ogilvie, who was midway through a 36-year run as mayor.
He moved to Castlegar in 1988 and served on council from 1990 to 2002, when he ran for mayor against O’Connor and was defeated. But he thinks it was for the best: “How in the heck would I have been able to do this job and have a full-time job with Teck in Trail?”
Duff returned to council from 2005-11, then lost a re-election bid by a narrow margin. His initial disappointment gave way to fidgetiness because he often felt like he was missing a meeting.
Duff ran again in a 2013 by-election, but lost to Florio Vassilakakis. At that point he figured he would never seek office again and dispensed with his election signs. But when Tassone resigned as mayor in early 2021, “my ears perked up.”
Duff said he spent a month and a half talking to his wife Myra about whether to run in the by-election. Finally, they decided that he would and she would be his campaign manager. Duff said it was at once a “satisfying and relaxing” campaign but also the one where he did the most walking and door-knocking.
Duff said making things easier was the fact he didn’t have to give up a council seat to run, unlike Vassilakakis, who finished runner-up. Duff called finally winning the mayor’s seat his most enjoyable moment in politics.
“It turned out this job was all that I thought it would be. It was fantastic.”
While some councillors initially questioned whether he could hit the ground running, Duff felt he proved that he could. Within six weeks of being sworn in, he signed an evacuation order due to the Merry Creek wildfire.
Duff called his run as mayor, though brief, “one hell of a good experience … one of the best jobs you could ever have.”
O’Connor wasn’t present on Monday, but his daughter Meghan accepted on his behalf, explaining that while he wasn’t big on ceremony, he loved the job of mayor and became involved in the community immediately after moving to Castlegar in 1980. He served as mayor from 1993 to 2005.
Tassone, who served as mayor from 2018 to 2021, was also on hand. He thanked council and staff and extended good wishes to the incoming council.
On hand to help make the presentations was former city manager Jim Gustafson. Present city manager Chris Barlow noted Gustafson hired him as an engineering technician in 2004.
Incumbent councillor Maria McFaddin will be sworn in as Castlegar’s 20th mayor on Nov. 7.