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.

Be­com­ing mayor

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.”

Burke’s pride

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.

Step­ping away

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.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins

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.

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