Meet the 4 new town councillors in Dawson City, Yukon

·5 min read
Dawson City's new mayor and town councillors were sworn in on Tuesday. They are, from left to right: Coun. Alexander Sommerville, Coun. Elizabeth Archbold, Mayor Bill Kendrick, Coun. Brennan Lister, and Coun. Patrik Pikalek. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC - image credit)
Dawson City's new mayor and town councillors were sworn in on Tuesday. They are, from left to right: Coun. Alexander Sommerville, Coun. Elizabeth Archbold, Mayor Bill Kendrick, Coun. Brennan Lister, and Coun. Patrik Pikalek. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC - image credit)

Dawson City, Yukon, has a new town council.

The council was sworn in to office Tuesday night. The newly-elected Mayor Bill Kendrick is joined by four councillors who are stepping into municipal politics for the first time.

CBC spoke with each of new councillors to learn more about them and the direction they'd like to see their town go in.

Alexander Sommerville

Alexander Sommerville has lived in Dawson City since 2011.

Since arriving to town Sommerville says he's been involved with the community in any way he can.

"From the first years in the summertime, volunteering for the Dawson City Music Festival — I think that's a lot of people's first engagement with civic life," he said.

He says he went on to join the Dawson City Community Library board in 2015. Six years later, he's president of the board.

He also works as the executive director of the Dawson City Museum, and has joined the Klondike Visitors Association as a director.

Chris MacIntyre/CBC
Chris MacIntyre/CBC

Sommerville said he would have liked to run for town council three years ago but he couldn't devote the time to the role.

"The [Dawson City] museum was in a critical point in a major renewal project that I knew I had to fully devote my attention and time to," he said.

"I specifically promised that in three years the project would be advanced where I could put my name forward for council and that all came to pass, so I did."

Sommerville says he hopes the town's solid waste management concerns are addressed by the end of his first term. He pointed to the recent announcement of the recycling depot closure and said solutions are needed.

"Waste management is a municipal responsibility and if there aren't ways to manage solid waste in particular, there's going to be a significant impact."

Elizabeth Archbold

Elizabeth Archbold is not only new to municipal politics but she is also new to Dawson City.

Archbold moved to Dawson last year, but says that hasn't held her back from immersing herself into the community.

"I was a student at Yukon's School of Visual Arts [SOVA] so I knew people that way," she explained.

"I applied for a part-time job immediately so I got into that part of Dawson. I started playing sports and doing a lot of volunteering so within a few months I would always see people on the street that I knew."

Archbold says it didn't take her long to fall in love with the town.

Chris MacIntyre/CBC
Chris MacIntyre/CBC

She is the only woman on council and the youngest, at 19 years old.

"We need younger voices. We need women on [the] council," Archbold said.

"I was like, yeah, I could be a voice for women and younger people who don't want to be directly involved with politics but still want a say how the town is run. I figure I can speak up for a lot of people."

Being relatively new to town, Archbold said she is going to rely on hearing from the community members about their wants and needs. She says she knows that housing is a major priority for council.

Archbold says she looks forward to working with her fellow colleagues. She's not concerned about their shared lack of political experience — in fact, it motivates her.

"I think having all of us as a fresh start is really going to drive us to get things done. To prove ourselves."

Patrik Pikalek

Patrik Pikalek didn't always have an interest in municipal politics. But three years ago previous mayor Wayne Potoroka suggested Pikalek run for council.

"At the time I couldn't because I wasn't a [Canadian] citizen yet," he said.

"[Potoroka] planted that seed into my mind and I started to think about it. I have some experience in understanding how the city works and runs because of my work on the heritage advisory committee. So I told myself it would be an interesting experience."

Chris MacIntyre/CBC
Chris MacIntyre/CBC

Pikalek waited until this year to put his name forward for council. With only four people going for the four councillor seats, Pikalek was automatically acclaimed.

He says he'll bring a unique perspective to council.

"I came from the Czech Republic," he said.

"I'm the only council member that has a family, so that might be a point of view to keep in mind. I work in tourism in town, I work for YG [the Yukon Government], for a non-profit. I'm running two businesses ... I'm going to be able to see issues from many different perspectives."

Brennan Lister

Brennan Lister has lived in Dawson City for over a decade. He says he decided to put his name forward because he wanted to see his community reach its full potential.

He calls Dawson "a resilient town," but said mistakes have been made in the past.

"I can't think of a project in the ten years I've been here that's been on time and on budget. How is that possible? Surely we can do better than we've been doing," he said.

He says an important value he is bringing to the position is accountability and transparency.

Chris MacIntyre/CBC
Chris MacIntyre/CBC

Lister said he knew his fellow councillors before they were all acclaimed, but only got to really know them after sitting down for coffee with them earlier this month.

He said he's optimistic that the new council will be able to set a new standard for municipal politics in Dawson City.

"To not change because you don't want to get it wrong I think is worse than changing and getting it wrong," Lister said. "Because we know the results that are going to be achieved if we continue down the same road.

"What I want after this term, is there to be a clear moment that, 10 years from now, they say, 'wow, in 2021 that group of people borrowed what was good and changed what was bad. Given what they knew, what they accomplished wasn't just satisfactory, it was great or even excellent.'"

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting