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.”