He never missed a Tuesday chat with Brent Loucks, so it seemed a little off when Don Atchison’s final conversation on civic duty fell on a Wednesday.
The former mayor of Saskatoon sat down with 650 CKOM’s morning host to reflect on a 22-year career in civic politics that came to a close – at least, for now – with last week’s municipal election on Oct. 26.
“It was a wonderful experience. To be gifted and given that opportunity is marvelous,” he said.
The longest-serving mayor in Saskatoon history said he was proud of his 2016 campaign, even if he came up just short of securing a fifth term.
“We told people what we believed in. We answered the questions and didn’t beat around the bush,” he said.
One question Atchison still wasn’t quite ready to answer: what’s next?
“If I knew, I’d tell you right now,” he said, before ruling out a quiet retirement to the golf course.
Always one to keep busy, Atchison worked as mayor right up until Monday, just hours before the new council was sworn in at city hall.
“If you’re playing a hockey game and you’re losing five to one with ten minutes to go, you don’t pack up your bags and go home. People pay to see you play, and the taxpayers pay to see you work – and you damn well better work,” he said.
And work he did. According to logs kept of the mayor’s schedule, Atchison attended some 8,758 events to which he was invited. On top of that, he attended 7,213 meetings and gave 2,134 media interviews.
He also returned 32,956 phone calls.
“That doesn’t even include cell phone calls – these are actual calls made from the mayor’s desk,” he said.
Atchison wasn’t big on regrets, but he did lament that he won’t be mayor for the opening of the new Traffic Bridge, the Remai Modern Art Gallery and the Civic Operations Centre.
He said his biggest joy in office was interacting with the public, both attending events and one-on-one.
“I never thought of myself as a politician – I still don’t,” he said. “I just think of myself as a guy who had the opportunity to be blessed.”
Atchison praised as good salesman for Saskatoon
650 CKOM hit the streets of Saskatoon downtown to ask people how they feel the former mayor did.
“He did an OK job, but it’s always good for a change to see what someone else can do,” Brenna Lozinsky said.
Jim Dunlop said Atchison was a great mayor.
“He was great with the people and I liked that he dressed up all the time,” one resident told 650 CKOM.
He said he didn’t think Atchison left a legacy, but it’s clear the city flourished under his leadership.
“The city was really behind on infrastructure, but since he became mayor, the council started to address it over the past few years,” he said.
Wayne Peterson actually played hockey with Atchison.
“He really sold the city well,” he said. “That’s what people will remember him for and I hope Charlie (Mayor Clark) can do the same.”
-with files from JT Marshall