THIRTY-ONE YEARS IS a long time for anyone to keep the same job. Thirty-one years is an amazingly long time to be an elected local politician. To have the faith and support of the community for so long is an outstanding feat.
On Tuesday, Coun. Patricia Wallace sat through her last council meeting. By my estimate, she’s attended well over 1,000 public council meetings, plus over 400 closed council meetings, and 400 more public hearings. There were countless other committee meetings on top of that as well.
Tuesday was Wallace’s last council meeting.
If it wasn’t her last meeting (as well as the last for her colleagues Councillors Tina Lange, Donovan Cavers, and Ray Dhaliwal) it would have been just another day at a City of Kamloops council meeting.
The meeting started with a staff member reading a quote by A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Staff most definitely knew it was Coun. Wallace’s last meeting.
But then the business of the meeting took over. The council chambers were packed, but not for the departing councillors. The largest group in the gallery were for the most contentious issue of the day, the request for a license for new cannabis retail store on Tranquille Road.
An existing, unlicensed cannabis dispensary and its supporters were out in force to protest the new store which was going through the required licensing provisions. They did not want the new, licensed store to be so close to the existing, unlicensed store.
The existing dispensary owner and supporters raised a number of points, and questions were raised by council to the supporters and city staff.
In the end, council agreed to the license application for the new Tranquille store, plus another requested by another proponent in the Fortune Centre.
The supporters of the unlicensed store left unhappy with the decision of council. The owners of the two new proposed licensed stores left council chambers satisfied.
After cannabis, came a touching presentation by Jeff Lodge, who presented a cheque to the City to pay for commemorative signs for streets named after veterans who died in World War I, such as Lee, Vicars, and Dalgleish. Lodge has spearheaded a campaign to raise funds to pay for the signs.
After that it was onto a presentation by the Manager of IT, where councillors heard about system vulnerabilities.
Easier than some meetings, harder than others, but a classic City council meeting.
Some land use decisions. Some unhappy public at the speaker’s podium challenging council on policy. Some generous public coming to make the city a better place. A staff report that hopefully was correct, because the technical parts were beyond anyone on council.
A big part of a councillor’s job is to let the public have a voice on matters that are important to them. Then, whatever the fallout, the councillor has to make a decision. Some will agree with the decision, others won’t. But, as Wallace told me many times, you make a decision and then you move on.
Another part of being a councillor’s job is knowing when to accept staff recommendations, and when not to. This time, council went along with the staff report. But one thing Wallace was good at was sensing when staff had missed the mark, and for those times she would let them know it. That’s the role of council, and Wallace knew it.
The most important role of council is to support the community. Time and again, I’ve heard Wallace encourage and praise the work of groups who came to council. She knew that taxes and City services are no match to what groups and individuals can accomplish.
The last thing Wallace did at Tuesday’s council meeting was to thank those she worked with, both on council and staff members. It wasn’t the first time. Over the years, time and time again, I’ve heard her give praise and credit to others.
Meeting after meeting, year after year, Wallace served Kamloops.
Here’s to Patricia Wallace’s years of service to the Kamloops. Thank you.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.