'Tremendous loss': Dauphin Mayor Eric Irwin dies on vacation in Florida

Dauphin, Man., Mayor Eric Irwin died while on vacation in Florida with his family, city officials confirm.

Elected mayor of the Manitoba city in 2010, he had a passion for community

Dauphin Mayor Eric Irwin died suddenly on Friday, city officials said. (Dauphin Countryfest)

The mayor of Dauphin, Man., is being remembered by a colleague for his vision and passion after he died while on vacation in Florida with his family.

Mayor Eric Irwin died suddenly on Friday, Brad Collett, Dauphin's chief administrative officer, wrote in an email to CBC News. A city release says the cause of Irwin's death is still unclear.

"This is a tremendous loss for Dauphin," Collett wrote. "However our thoughts are with his family and friends during this terribly tragic time."

​Irwin had been mayor of the city of roughly 8,400 people, 250 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, since 2010. He was first elected to city council in 1998, the same year he became president of Dauphin's Countryfest. The festival is the longest-running country music festival in Canada.

He had one year left in his term as mayor.

"He was an inspiration to a lot of people, and also [had] an ability to dream, and to get the project completed," said Allen Dowhan, deputy mayor of Dauphin.

"He was a remarkable person, and a lot of people, whether in the legal community or in our community, both city and rural, will miss him dearly."

The flags at Dauphin's city hall were lowered to half-mast in Irwin's honour, Dowhan added.

'Passion for the community'

Dowhan said city council will meet with Manitoba's department of municipal relations soon to figure out the next step.

Under Irwin's leadership, Dauphin lowered its property taxes significantly, Dowhan said, and Irwin was a champion for sustainable initiatives, including door-to-door recycling pickup and solar energy projects. He was also a driving force behind the city's cinema, Dowhan added.

"I think a lot of people in our community will miss him, for both his passion for the community and his willingness to step in on community projects," Dowhan said.

"I'll miss him dearly. … It's going to take a while to come to [the] realization that he's gone."

Supporters and well-wishers took to social media Saturday to express condolences, including Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, the Dauphin Kings hockey team and Dauphin's Countryfest.

Death 'a shocker': Countryfest

​"We're all pretty devastated and actually quite in shock. I mean, it was a real shocker for us," said Rob Waloschuk, a promoter and producer for Countryfest.

Waloschuk said Irwin was one of the "driving forces" behind the 30-year-old festival.

"It wouldn't be what it is today if it wasn't for Eric and his drive. When he wanted to get something done, he got 'er done, that's for sure," he said.

In addition to his duties as mayor and with Countryfest, Irwin was also president of the community's Co-op board and was head of a successful law firm, Waloschuk said.

​"I often commented to him ... 'How do you do it?' He just seemed to be going every day and every night," he said.

"Besides his law firm, everything was volunteer. He was volunteer on everything. He had a true love for the community and everybody that he worked with. "