It’s a series of never-ending goodbyes.
Rob Sawatzky remains Vernon’s mayor until Dec. 1 so there are still daily meetings, phone calls and e-mails. But with every one, comes a new cycle of people wanting to bid farewell before he departs.
“As each milestone in duties passes and meetings pass one by one, the reality sets in that this will soon end,” said Sawatzky, who decided to retire from office after one term instead of seeking re-election Nov. 15.
“It’s pretty cool because you spend so much time with people who are part of your duties and routine. It’s all about relationships.”
He’s already thinking about the hole that will be left in his life once he vacates the mayor’s chair.
“I’ll miss the professional staff and council members I work with. We spend a lot of time together. Even the media is part of that,” he said.
He is also grateful towards the community.
“I appreciate the opportunity they gave me to do community service.”
But there is little sentimentality for four-and-a-half hour meetings and 12-hour work days.
“That was a new phenomenon for me. It’s hard on the back and the concentration.”
Sawatzky also won’t miss the attacks fired towards him by members of the public.
“That’s a very difficult thing. My personality is serious and to try hard and to have people criticize you when you are trying your best is difficult,” he said.
“You can’t satisfy everyone. You must be confident that you did your best for the right reasons.”
Sawatzky admits he lost his cool during a public hearing on the visitor information centre.
“If people hadn’t seen me at other meetings, they would say he’s not receptive and calm,” he said.
“I regret the hearing because it was a misunderstanding. The public came thinking it was a hearing about the visitor centre (location) when it wasn’t. It was about rezoning the property.”
Furor also erupted over the decision not to maintain a contract with the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighter Association. While the city insisted that it was a legal issue that must stay in-camera, some residents accused council of not being transparent.
“ I would have much preferred that we could have released all of the details around the Landing firefighters’ contract issue. The correctness of council ‘s decision would have then been obvious to everyone,” said Sawatzky.
If there was a commonly heard criticism of Sawatzky’s time as mayor, it was that he wasn’t seen enough at community events after-hours.
“You have to allocate your time,” he said, adding that he was at more than 100 charity events a year.
“If the most important part of the job is glad-handing, you are taking away from the legislative component of the job. There is a balance you need to find.”
When asked what his single-most important achievement was while mayor, Sawatzky becomes bureaucratic and points with pride to processes established to address strategic infrastructure and transportation.
“You can’t have an $8 million shortfall in the community’s assets and consider your administration is anything but a failure,” he said, adding that the behind-the-scenes work and long-term plans trumps photo-ops.
“You better prepare the meal before you put any gravy on.”
Sawatzky has met with mayor-elect Akbal Mund, but he’s unwilling to publicly provide his successor with any advice.
“He’s been elected by the public to lead and he has to put his own stamp on it. If I’m not willing to be in the position, I won’t be saying anything,” he said.
After Dec. 1, Sawatzky plans to resurrect a passion for travelling, and he may ultimately return to his medical profession in Vernon.
“I don’t want complete brain rot to set in,” joked the 62-year-old.