British Columbia

Kootenay city elects new mayor after predecessor quit over holiday travel controversy

 Voters in Castlegar, B.C., have chosen a replacement for the former mayor who resigned earlier this year following criticism of his decision to travel over Christmas, contrary to provincial health guidlines.

Former mayor Bruno Tassone cites strained relationship with council and media

Castlegar, B.C., mayor-elect Kirk Duff, left, and his wife Myra on the campaign trail. (Elect Kirk Duff for Mayor of Castlegar/Facebook)

 Voters in Castlegar, B.C., have chosen a replacement for the former mayor who resigned earlier this year following criticism of his decision to travel over Christmas, contrary to provincial health guidlines.

Kirk Duff beat out four other candidates in Saturday's byelection, winning by 42 votes over former councillor Florio Vassilakakis, who gave up his seat to run for mayor. 

More than 2,400 Castlegar residents cast their ballots.

Duff — who previously served 18 years on council from 1990 to 2002 and from 2005 to 2011 — is scheduled to be sworn in on May 17, succeeding Bruno Tassone, who quit abruptly on Jan. 8 after coming under fire for travelling outside of his local community in December, despite provincial guidelines against non-essential travel.

Tassone said his strained relationship with fellow council members and the media was one of the reasons why he left.

"It goes without saying that I have been a target of harmful and bullying behaviour, along with outright disrespect," Tassone wrote in his resignation letter.

Duff says he will bring "a very positive and level-headed leadership" to the city council.

"I've got a fairly solid foundation on steadiness [and] being reasonably pragmatic," Duff said Monday to Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South. "We just need to bring the temperature down a little bit." 

The ex-mayor submitted his resignation a week after the public took to social media lambasting his family tour of his cabin at the Mount Baldy ski resort in the Okanagan, about 200 kilometres west of Castlegar.

Duff says public perception matters when it comes to accountability of elected officials.

"If you don't communicate properly with the public [and] the voters out there, it raises the level of distrust and people start to suspect things," he said.

In his resignation letter, former Castlegar, B.C., Mayor Bruno Tassone said his strained relationship with fellow council members and the media was one of the reasons why he left his job. (Submitted by City of Castlegar)

On Saturday Castlegar also chose retired chain store manager Brian Bogle as the new city councillor to fill the vacancy left by Vassilakakis.

Duff says he and Bogle will focus on holding the line on taxes and pausing public spending.

"There is an advantage to being in here for just a year and a half of the term, because it gives time to do any necessary reset that's required," Duff said. 

"There's still and will continue to be a lot of uncertainty," he added. "My job is going to be to stabilize that and get people to not worry about what the city is doing at this point in time and just focus on their own families and their own health and well-being."

Tap the link below to hear Kirk Duff's interview on Daybreak South

Kirk Duff shares his vision and how he will unite the West Kootenay city's council. 0:00

With files from Daybreak South

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