There were tears and self-congratulatory pats on the back among the councillors as Kelowna city council adjourned their last meeting prior to the Oct. 20 municipal election.
Of the current council, only Tracy Gray is not seeking re-election, as she will seek the Conservative Party nomination in the Kelowna-Lake Country riding for the next federal election in 2019.
Both Ryan Donn and Charlie Hodge, who sit on either side of Gray at the council table, wished her well in her political future, saying they will miss her guidance and support.
“She has been a rock sitting here beside me these last four years and I appreciate the stability she has given to me,” said Donn.
While fighting back the tears at times, Gray acknowledged the confidence that the mayor has shown in her through committee appointments, the professionalism of city staff and the media, who she teased “have been very professional and respectful…most of the time.”
She applauded her council cohorts who didn’t always agree with her on issues but shared a respect and trust, and for the public being engaged in debate on issues facing the city.
“I have seen amazing people doing amazing things in our community that don’t often get recognized on the front page, but I have seen a passion at public hearings that show how much people care, and their engagement in issues such as the Journey Home taskforce and Imagine Kelowna program,” she said.
Gray gave a final thank-you to her family, her husband and son, who never questioned her crazy schedule or having their family thrust into the public eye.
“You can’t do this job without that strong family support,” she said.
Mayor Colin Basran acknowledged the “wisdom and knowledge” that Gray has brought to council and wished her good luck in her future political endeavours.
Both Coun. Gail Given and Basran took the opportunity to trumpet the positive growth that has occurred in Kelowna during the last four years.
“When you see all the factors moving in a positive direction as I saw attending at economic development commission meeting last week, it is gratifying to know you are part of a team that participated in that,” she said.
Basran stressed the team concept as well, saying he is often reminded how politics is not a team sport.
“But I never felt that way with any of you,” he said to council. “I felt we were and still are a team. When you hear about other councils in other communities who can’t even have lunch with each other, yet we’ve been able to disagree on significant items but at the end of the day can still have lunch together and laugh, smile and joke with one another.
“I feel very fortunate to have been part of a team like that.”