Aurthur Burke stepping away
Town of Victoria mayor will not be on ballot after 20 years on council
The nostalgic look in the Town of Victoria mayor Authur Burke’s eyes was obvious as he glanced around the Town Hall council chambers June 26.
With a smirk he pointed at his first official photo as mayor from 2001 and said, “That is the worst picture ever taken of me.”
That photo will stay there for many years, but the collection of mayor photos that line the wall will grow this September.
Burke has decided not to seek reelection after 20 years in municipal politics.
He sat at a wooden table in council chambers to tell the The Compass how he got his start in municipal politics.
Never intended to run
In 1993 Burke, a native of Victoria, walked into his neighbourhood church to find some elderly gentlemen talking about the upcoming elections.
“When I walked in one man said, ‘here’s a fella that I heard was going to run for council this year,’” he explained.
“If he hadn’t have said it that morning, it never would have been in my mind to run for council,” he said.
But he did run, and he garnered a lot of support his first run, placing fourth in votes out of 19 candidates.
Many communities in t he province, including Victoria, used to have an election process where the candidate with the highest number of votes was named mayor, with the second highest taking the deputy mayor spot.
Burke was chosen as deputy mayor during the 1997 vote and Frank E. Clarke was named mayor. In 1998, Clarke resigned the post and Burke took his place for three years until the next election.
After throwing his hat in the ring in 2001, the first year mayor was on a seperate ballot, he became the first elected mayor of Victoria.
The mayor position has been held by Burke since, but he was not satisfied with his 2005 win by acclamation.
“I wasn’t proud of winning by acclamation because I would have much rather had competition,” he shrugged. “You really know then that the people want you as their mayor.”
One of the things Burke said he is most proud of is the financial stability he is leaving with the town — money in the bank, manageable debts and one of the more financially stable towns in the province.
“To have us in that position is very rewarding for me,” he said. “I hope our councillors continue on, watching the dollar and not biting off more than they can chew.”
Since taking over as mayor in 1998, Burke has helped the town progress significantly.
“I couldn’t do it alone,” he said. “It takes every councillor and every council in the past years to bring us to where we are today.”
The trick has been taking care of issues and not doing patchwork, he explained.
When there were issues with sewage overflowing into the rivers around Victoria, the council decided to update their water treatment facility, and had a $3.5-million “state-ofthe-art” ultraviolet treatment system installed that empties into a lagoon.
Burke said doing that four years ago allowed them to have a leg up on new government regulations for water treatment.
Another goal he had when he became mayor was to ensure all roads in the town were paved, and, he said, the town should be completely paved in the next four to five years.
In 2012, the Town of Victoria won the Torngat award from Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) for “Excellence in Governance.”
“Financial management is at the forefront of Victoria’s achievements,” a newsletter from MNL described the town.
The town was applauded for its contributions to the fire department, the cadets and for acquiring a community centre.
Burke, himself, has also received a prestigious award for 2012, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for “dedication to the town and continuous volunteer work.”
Something many people do not know about Burke is he has a marriage commissioner’s license, something he also got into by accident.
“A girl called me one night three or four years ago, and she said, ‘I’m getting married next summer and we have you in our plans to marry us,’” he smiled, adding he did not have a license to conduct marriage at that time.
With a little push from the bride and an offer for her and her groom to pay the fee for the licence, Burke became the first mayor of Victoria to conduct marriage ceremonies.
“I’ve done maybe 50 since then,” he exclaimed.
Although he admits he will miss being on council, he said it is time to step away to allow the next generation of municipal politicians to take their place on council.
“The government is more or less wanting for younger people and women to run in the election this year,” he said. “I’m just leaving to give someone else a chance.”
He says his plans now are to do a bit of work around the house, and hopefully travel more to see his seven grandchildren.
Until then, he says, he will keep representing the Town of Victoria the same way he always has, with pride.
Victoria Mayor Arthur Burke has announced he will not run in the next municipal election. Burke has been on council for 20 years and has spent 15 of them as mayor.