Yellowknife mayor Mark Heyck will not seek re-election in October.
In a statement on Twitter Tuesday, Heyck wrote that after close to 15 years on city council — six as mayor — “now is the time to step back.”
“My children were born during my first term as a city councillor,” he wrote. “I’m eager to spend more time with my family over the next few years.”
In an interview Tuesday, Heyck said he came to the decision with his partner Amy Lea over the Christmas holidays.
“I’ve missed more than a few of my kids’ Christmas concerts because we were deliberating on budgets,” he said.
Although the mayor’s job can be “pretty grueling,” Heyck said his choice not to run again was unrelated to reports of workplace misconduct in the Municipal Enforcement Division (MED) published by News/North and the CBC in January.
Over a period spanning the early 2000s to 2014, Doug Gillard, the head of MED, is alleged to have made sexual and homophobic comments about city employees, hit MED officers in the groin and used security cameras to look at women at city facilities.
These allegations prompted city administration to shut off security cameras in all city facilities and sparked an inquiry into workplace misconduct in the bylaw enforcement division.
Heyck said he decided not to run for a third term about a month and a half before “some of the latest issues cropped up.”
The mayor decided to announce his intentions now, in part, because his predecessor, Gord Van Tighem, stated he would not seek re-election around this time in 2012.
Unlike Van Tighem, however, Heyck is not endorsing any potential replacement at this time. Van Tighem touted Heyck as his successor when he announced his retirement.
Heyck said he wanted to give residents considering a run for mayor ample time to make that decision.
Councillors expressed shock Tuesday after learning the mayor would not be running again.
“I don’t think anybody expected this,” said Coun. Steve Payne.
Payne said Heyck had done “some pretty amazing things” during is tenure, and called the outgoing mayor a “fair leader.”
“Wow,” said Coun. Linda Bussey, after hearing of Heyck’s decision.
Bussey said she hoped his decision to stand down was not connected to “a lot of things that we’ve been experiencing.”
“I hope it’s because he wants to do something different,” she said.
Bussey declined to elaborate on what she meant by “things we’ve been experiencing.”
“There’s been some hurdles to cross and we’re still crossing them,” she said.
Coun. Niels Konge would not comment on the mayor’s leadership over the last six years.
Konge publicly feuded with Heyck last fall over the mayor’s handling of complaints lodged against the councillor by city employees.
The dispute ended in December when council officially reprimanded Konge during a city council meeting.
Konge, president of contracting company Konge Construction, said he will “absolutely not” consider running for mayor.
“The mayor job is a full-time job and I love my job,” he said. “I love being a business person, I love construction.”
Formerly a website and multimedia co-ordinator at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Heyck was first elected to Yellowknife city council in 2003. The born-and-raised Yellowknifer served as deputy mayor from 2006 until 2012, when he was voted in as the city’s 14th mayor.
During Heyck’s mayoralty, the city adopted a 10-year plan to end homelessness, beefed up its street outreach and shelter services, started curb-side compost collection and improved trails, bike paths and aging infrastructure.
Earlier this month, the mayor accepted a Sustainable Communities Award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for a biomass heating system that will heat the Multiplex, Fieldhouse, city garage, firehall and parks garage.
The wood pellet heating system is expected to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 829 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and save between $140,000 and $160,000 a year.
Through housing, tourism and environmental initiatives, Heyck made sustainability the focus of his agenda.
“That notion of sustainability throughout the community has really grown in prominence,” he said. “I hope if there’s any legacy that I’ve left, it relates to community sustainability.”
Heyck said he doesn’t know yet what he will do after his term comes to an end, which is “a little bit scary but also kind of exciting.”
Tuesday’s announcement however, does not necessarily portend the end of his political career.
“Never say never,” said the 42-year-old mayor.
“There will be future opportunities potentially.”
Bussey neither confirms nor denies potential run
Coun. Linda Bussey could be one potential candidate to replace outgoing mayor Mark Heyck this fall.
“I’m not saying ‘no’ and I’m not saying ‘yes,’” the city councillor said Tuesday, when asked if she was considering a run for the city’s highest office.
Heyck has done “great work,” said Bussey, but every politician reaches a point where he or she needs to “do something different.”
“The next eight months are going to be interesting,” she said.