KAMLOOPS - With just days to go before the byelection and the end of Arjun Singh's brief stint as the mayor of Kamloops, the veteran politician will be leaving the office with a greater appreciation for the role, and the city it serves.
With so many years on council before being elected as interim mayor, Singh says he knew it was going to be a rewarding but incredibly difficult job.
"I took this job as a caretaker. I took this job as basically somebody who is supposed to keep the lights on," he says. "Having seen it from the council seat for eight or so years, you see how hard the mayor is working and the kinds of things they are doing are both awesome and challenging. I'm here to tell you that's exactly what it's like."
The skill that Singh feels he has used the most, and will be important for the incoming mayor to use as well, is listening. He says being mayor is a constant balancing act of knowing when to step in, and when to step back.
"You're really in sort of a quarterback role, a facilitator role here," he says. "You're trying to make sure that everybody is talking to each other. Everybody is informed as to what's going on and everybody has the feeling they can contribute. I'm not saying everybody gets their way because that's not how it works, but everybody on council... has a role and feels that what they are doing is important."
The skill Singh points to as the one he has honed and developed the most during his time as mayor is communicating with the public through the media.
"You have to represent the city, not just locally, but provincially and nationally around things like the wildfire smoke or Ajax," he says. "Those have been opportunities for me to hopeful put the best foot forward for council and the community."
While Singh says he doesn't want to give marching orders to whoever wins the vote on Sept. 30, he will have some valuable information to pass along. In addition to briefing the new mayor on the state of the city after an eventful summer, he has some pointed advice.
"The mayor has a role to bring their own policies and ideas into the mix, but it really is a system where council has to agree with that," he says. "There's a real skill around bringing council along with you and earning the respect of the people you are working with."
As for the big question of whether this abbreviated term as mayor has inspired him to run in the next general election in 2018, Singh says he plans to wait a bit longer. In part because he is committed to his role within the Union of B.C. Municipalities which will see him elevated to President next year.
"It would be very challenging to do both, plus I have a candidate that I like for mayor," he says. "I don't really want to say more than that, but I think that person will do a very good job if elected so I'd like that person to do another term at least. Then in 2022 we'll see."
The byelection will be held on Saturday, Sept. 30 to fill the mayors chair vacated by Peter Milobar when he was elected to the provincial legislature. Two council seats left vacant by Ken Christian and Marg Spina are up for grabs as well. Christian left his post to run for mayor while Spina resigned for health reasons.
Find past stories on the Kamloops byelection here.
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