Oct. 31, 2022

40 years in Nanaimo, has been time well spent

Forty years ago today, my wife and I with four kids, and all our earthly belongings boarded the Queen of Alberni at Horseshoe Bay on one of the most important chapters of our lives. We became Nanaimoites. The kids are over 50 years old now, and have all left the nest.

That’s half of my life, and have things ever changed. Nanaimo’s population was just under 50,000 in 1982 and now we’re more than double that. And when I turned in the Budget rental truck I was shocked that the gasoline fill-up was more than 50 cents a litre. Many more things have changed over those years, it would take a book to chronicle all of them.

As a journalist for the Daily Free Press and later the News Bulletin, I had my finger on the pulse of this community, if it was happening I knew about it.

As I reminisce about those four decades, it was the people I met who stand out, and naming them would read like a phone book. It’s risky to start naming some because I’m sure to miss some. The people who were leaders in our community stand out. 

For instance, at the top of the list has to be Frank Ney – mayor, pirate, entrepreneur and marketer par excellence. As a reporter covering weekend events you could be sure Frank would be there whether it was a birthday party, wedding anniversary or business event.

It may surprise some people, but I spent a lot of time with Dave Stupich, former member of Parliament and MLA. We were on opposite sides of the political fence but always found common ground. I spent the day of his final election with him, going to the polls and later watching the results come in at his private office in the Dunsmuir Building. It was the end of an era.

There were other memorable ones like mayors Graeme Roberts and Gary Korpan. Another individual I’ve always had time for is Leonard Krog as an MLA and now mayor. . . and most important, a genuine friend.

Over the years, the political left has labelled me as a righty, while at the same time, right wingers called me a lefty. Now that’s walking a fine line.

There’s so much I love about my four decades here and the opportunity to participate where I could. I have been privileged to work with volunteers who have served over those 40 years on those organizations to give Nanaimo such a solid foundation. It’s the organizations and the people who are making Nanaimo great. Any accomplishments have been because of them.

St. John Ambulance is front and centre where over a decade I participated with the Nanaimo branch executive, rising to the level of Officer of the Order of St. John and earning a citation from Queen Elizabeth. And we raised $1.2 million for a new building. It was the volunteers who made the difference. It was an honour to serve as president, director on the provincial board and president of the St. John Foundation of B.C. and Yukon.

Six years as a city councillor from 2005 to 2011 cannot be matched, and as a director of the Regional District for part of that time. And the Nanaimo Port Authority, 2012-2015.

The most satisfying accomplishment was as co-chairman of the Safer Nanaimo Working Group, with Diane Brennan and later Fred Pattje, recognized with the Solicitor General’s award for the Best Community Safety Program in the province. The highlight was the creation of a housing strategy which resulted in about 140 units being built for homeless people in Nanaimo. 

The Nanaimo Hospital Board in the mid-1980s built the new emergency department and formed the Nanaimo Hospital Foundation. There were the great veterans at the Vancouver Island Military Museum and Coun. Loyd Sherry securing a permanent location and the Wall of Honour. 

I have always been dedicated to community safety and that led to the Community Policing Advisory Committee, Crime Stoppers, Citizens On Patrol, Bar Watch Program, the Nanaimo Addiction Foundation and the Mayor’s Crystal Meth Task Force.

Also the Chamber of Commerce, the B.C. Summer Games and the B.C. Disability Games in 2005, the Newcastle Island Pavilion Society and many more.

Those organizations and the literally hundreds of people are why I view Nanaimo as a great place to call home. I’m extremely fortunate to have been able to contribute with them. That’s 40 years well spent, and I don’t regret a minute, except for hours spent in ferry lineups.