For the first time in years, thanks to the pandemic, council chambers at Duncan City Hall was near capacity Monday evening. The crowd had gathered to watch the recently elected Duncan city council’s inauguration as well as to honour some of the area’s most upstanding citizens.
Councillor Jenni Capps was unable to attend the event but Mayor Michelle Staples and councillors Garry Bruce, Stacy Middlemiss, Tom Duncan, and Carol Newington were all sworn in for new terms while newcomer Mike McKinlay was sworn in for his first term. Elizabeth Robinow, Barrister and Solicitor, administered the Oaths of Office.
At least one councillor and the mayor herself both admitted to wavering in their resolve to even run for public office again but they did because of the relationships they’d built with their fellow councillors and city staff.
“Because of the people around this table. Because of the way that everyone treats each other, how respectful they are. How we can have very serious differences and debates and many of us go home annoyed at the end of the night but we continue to come back together and we continue to talk and talk through it and work through it and we don’t hold it over each other. We move on and we do the things that need to be done,” said Staples of what makes Duncan council unique. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that but also I hope our community appreciates that because we went to a lot of conferences in a lot of different places and they called us the unicorn council because it’s rare to have that type of a council.”
When McKinlay, who served for years as the city’s fire chief, retired and ran for his seat on council, it meant a shift in the fire department’s leadership. Thus, on Monday evening, Chief Art Sanderson, Deputy Chief Leanne Closson, Assistant Chief Chris Irving and Captains Thomas Michieli and Justin Kerrone were also sworn into their positions.
Irving was also presented with his 20-year exemplary service medal and plaque by Sanderson.
“Chris has been with the department over 20 years and over that time has progressed from a probationary firefighter to assistant chief. To have stayed for 20 years is something to celebrate because there’s not that many young people that do that nowadays,” Sanderson said. “Chris has learned a lot over the 20 years and is a very competent officer. He is still striving to learn as much as he can. His enthusiasm has not lessened.”
Coco Jones was honoured by longtime friend, Mayor Staples, with the city’s Perpetural Arts Award.
“She’s a prolific painter and she’s passionate about her work and where she lives,” said Staples in presenting the award. “Coco is recognized for her generosity to those that live and work in Cowichan. Art is sacred to her. A complete part of her and her best is definitely yet to come.”
Former Citizen sports reporter Kevin Rothbauer received the city’s Perpetual Excellence and Sportsmanship Trophy.
“Kevin has definitely made many significant contributions to local athletics through his involvement with a great number of youth sports organizations, said Stacy Middlemiss in presenting the award.
“Kevin has always been willing to cover some of the smaller scale events and accomplishments. You could always guarantee that, even if you weren’t the No. 1 team in a league or a team with a winning record, Kevin would cover you and put a positive twist on it. This is always motivating and encouraging to students, as student/athletes love to see their names and their school names in the paper. Kevin always does a superb job covering all results — great or seemingly insignificant, but always significant when reported by Kevin.”
The Scroll of Honour went to the late Andy Hutchins and was received by his wife Kathleen and one of his daughters.
In his presentation, councillor Garry Bruce called the Scroll of Honour “a very distinct and a very powerful award to be given out. It’s for the actual heart of our community, it’s for volunteers and people who work tirelessly for our community and this award goes to Andy Hutchins, who has passed.”
Bruce noted Hutchins faithfully served with North Cowichan’s Maple Bay fire hall for 48 years — 26 years as an officer and 22 years as the chief.
“Just that alone is amazing to me,” Bruce said. His knowledge and experience was even tapped to help develop firefighter training programs at the Justice Institute of B.C.
Hutchins was a founding member of both the Cowichan Valley Fire Chiefs Association and the Maple Bay Rowing Club. He was instrumental in the creation and successful completion of the Chesterfield Sportsplex and was a leader of the Duncan/North Cowichan Sports Wall of Fame committee. He was involved in KidSport and the B.C. Seniors Games and sat on a tax review committee for the District of North Cowichan, among other community commitments.