It’s a mayor’s life

Taking stock of what's involved on the Castlegar mayor's daily agenda

Mayor Chernoff (L) and councillor Chernoff between acts

Mayor Chernoff (L) and councillor Chernoff between acts

Betsy Kline

Castlegar News


Have you ever wondered what a small town mayor does every day? The answer may surprise you as the job is much more involved than it appears on the surface. The average day in the life of the mayor is anything but average as the agenda is different every day.

Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff usually arrives at City Hall at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays. This is the most predictable part of the day. Keeping up with all the paperwork in his job takes about three hours a day. The mayor is responsible for signing all of the cheques the city disperses. Before signing, he looks them over to ensure they are accurate and there are no discrepancies. The mayor must also sign any contract or agreement the city enters into; requiring him to give everything a last inspection before finalizing the document. The paperwork continues with multiple reports and preparations for City Council  and committee meetings. Another aspect of the paperwork is writing letters to a variety of recipients ranging from government ministries to local citizens. He also must write official correspondence on behalf of the city.

Mayor Chernoff summed it up, “There are always things to read, stuff to keep up on, paperwork, people sending emails, doing the routine stuff and overseeing policies.”

Depending on the day of the month, the mayor’s  agenda may include a meeting with the Regional District of Central Kootenay of which he is Vice Chair or the Highway 3 Mayor’s Coalition of which he is the Chairman. The Mayor also sits on the West Kootenay Transportation Board; is the Chair of the City of Castlegar Green Committee, Stage IV labour/Management Committee, Emergency Committee and sits on the Recreation Committee for good measure. Preparing for these meetings takes many hours.

Appointments also take up a portion of each day; meeting with everyone from newspaper reporters and business leaders to city staff and concerned citizens. “I like to have people come see me in my office,” says the mayor. “I’d sooner talk to you face to face than send an email back and forth, sometimes it’s hard to translate an email. I like to look at you and read you as things go along.”

This is definitely not a nine-to-five job.  Many meetings take place at night. The mayor attends three or four evening meetings or events each week.

Anytime you talk with Mayor Chernoff about his job, his love and passion for what he does is obvious. The part of the job he likes best is getting out of the office and talking to the citizens and businesses that make up our community.

“My job is to promote the community,” he outlined, “and I do that in the utmost way. I really try to build, when I meet with Ministries or whoever, the greater Castlegar area, the West Kootenays. I think it is important for everyone to know that to work in isolation really does not work. It is my job to sell the city to anyone I can and to try and promote the city.”

The mayor also represents the city at social and cultural events. He recently spent time as MC at the Kootenay Festival. Maintaining the relationship with our sister city in Japan also takes time, especially when there is a delegation visiting.

The Millennium Ponds project and the grand opening celebrations have been requiring attention, but Mayor Chernoff said of the ponds, “You feel the excitement in the community and that makes me extremely proud.”

The mayor’s overall philosophy for doing his job could be summed up with his statement, “When the Council sits down and we look at what we are doing, we’re trying to see what’s best for the community and that has really been my goal. How do I make things better, for my grandchildren, the families, or whoever? You have to make it better.”

Chernoff must also spend part of his day dealing with critics. He says he has learned to deal with criticism by looking at the subject in question and analyzing it to see if it is for the overall good to the majority of citizens.

The mayor has spent many years in the people business. He was a paramedic for 29 years and has been in politics for the last 25 years, including nine years as Mayor of Castlegar.

“I’m still dealing with people, and still enjoying it. My greatest satisfaction is to see what is happening in the community, and over time things are improving. It is a great place to live. I see the growth, I see things are happening, we’re progressive and always looking to the future. It’s the future that we build for everybody else.”