North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr won’t be running for his current office again when voters elect their municipal officials on Oct. 15.
Orr said Wednesday morning that he will continue to bring the commitment that he has shown during the last eight years to the remaining months of his term. “We still got some good work to do and I remain fully committed to that work.”
Orr formally announced his decision not to run Tuesday afternoon in a release. “I am by nature a gentle soul who believes in practising empathy and compassion,” he said. “I must confess that the cumulative impact of recent conflict generated by various community issues has been hard on many – myself included.”
Orr said in the interview with Black Press Media that he did not want to single out any specific issue. “I used the word ‘cumulative’ with some intention because it isn’t necessarily one issue, stemming from the OCP review, the tree bylaw (review), the burning bylaw, or green waste, or Deep Cove parking, or the farmstand (issue). It’s just a cumulative effect of having to manage all of that and trying to work through it in a good way and respect everybody’s views. It’s the summation of different things over time.”
One characteristic of the dialogue around these various issues has been the tone on social media. When asked what role it played in his decision, Orr said he did not want to single out any particular medium of communication. “It would be fair to say that the social media use for local issues is prevalent everywhere. I think it’s certainly part of the general sense I have had of our collective inability to have reasonable conversation on challenging issues. There were lots of examples of what I would call perhaps non-productive contributions on social media. But the reason why I’m a little hesitant is because we can also choose to engage in whatever dialogue we want in the roles that we are in.”
He added later that it can also be helpful in ways. “I don’t want to make it seem like that social media drove me out of office. That is not the case.”
Orr also pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as a contributing factor. “The pandemic, the tail end of it, I think people generally are maybe a little bit more on edge than they would be quote-unquote normally,” he said. “It’s a collective difficult environment.”
Orr assumed his current office as mayor in 2018 after having served as a councillor between 2014 and 2018. Orr said in the release announcing his decision that he had worked hard to represent all residents during his eight years on council and enjoyed the role of mayor while finding it simultaneously both rewarding and challenging.
Orr’s statement did not give any clue about his future plans. “I’m looking forward to exploring new possibilities that will allow me to contribute in a positive and meaningful way that completely aligns with my core values.”
When asked, Orr said it is too early to say what might be ahead, adding later that he has had a lot of exposure to volunteer and non-profit work for groups such as the Victoria Foundation and the Coalition to End Homelessness, among others. “Those are the kind of things where there may be an opportunity to do something.”
Ultimately, he said it’s a “huge list” of possible options in front of him.
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