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Gibsons council uses its last meeting to recognize these exceptional community leaders

Gibsons council honoured community leaders Pam Robertson, Donna Thomas, Ed Hill and Conchita Harding in their final regular meeting of their term. The occasion also marked the end of at least Coun. Aleria Ladwig and Mayor Bill Beamish's time at the council table.

“A new council’s coming and I must say, I don't know if I'm looking forward to it or not, but I'm going to be here,” was Donna Thomas’s promise and caution Tuesday evening as the council meeting drew to a close. 

So ended a term. 

With doughnuts, a slideshow and a few welling tears, Town of Gibsons council wrapped their term with one final regular council meeting Oct. 4 (though this council is still available for emergency meetings before the new one is sworn in. The to-be-elected council’s first meeting is Nov. 1.)

Nary a chair was empty as the meeting opened as council took the opportunity to recognize four local volunteer extraordinaires with community excellence awards: Pam Robertson, Donna Thomas, Ed Hill and Conchita Harding. 

“Each of the people that this council has chosen to recognize has demonstrated an ability to lead and to be examples of how community members can make a difference,” Mayor Bill Beamish said. “They're examples to all of us as role models for people looking for ways to become involved in their community.”

Each councillor introduced a recipient.

Pam Robertson

Coun. Aleria Ladwig remembered meeting Pam Robertson in 2012 when Ladwig was serving on her first community committee and Robertson was chair of the Advisory Planning Commission (a position she held 2005 to 2018). “I was immediately impressed with her,” said Ladwig. “Pam was always very professional, well prepared, genuine and kind in all our dealings with the community members, developers and staff.”

Robertson would leave the APC and go on to chair the Gibsons Community Building Society as it built the Gibsons Public Market and Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre, bringing her leadership skills and “unparalleled fundraising efforts” to the community hub. 

“Pam was a role model and inspiration for me when I was contemplating stepping up into this position,” said Ladwig, holding back her emotion. “Just like I'm sure she has been for many other women contemplating contributing to their community in a meaningful way.”

Donna Thomas

It took three minutes for Coun. David Croal to get through his list of sources for his recipient as quotes from politicians and labour organizations spoke to Donna Thomas’s decades of advocacy in the labour movement. “This individual, in many ways, is our community conscience when it comes to matters for labor and less fortunate,” said Croal, noting that Thomas doesn’t have TV, a computer or even internet access, doing her research through the printed word, and then researching that. “An individual who continues to faithfully attend local government meetings to ask tough questions on behalf of citizens bringing forward difficult issues and comments others will not. She has inspired her community to do and be better for decades.”

(Thomas lived up to her tribute by staying to the end of the meeting to give councillors one last quizzing on water, childcare, and the maintenance of the Charman lands.) 

After receiving her award, Thomas addressed council and audience. “As far as I'm concerned, it's my moment to say we need to appreciate all the diversity we have in our community, all people whose opinions and beliefs we don't necessarily like, the people who vote for the wrong people, blah, blah, blah….Us all together, it's an ecology. It's a system, like the forest.

“We need each other.”

Ed Hill

“This next award goes to a gentleman who’s very soft spoken,” Coun. Stafford Lumley told the crowd. “Just kidding – it’s Ed Hill.” 

Lumley remembers moving to Gibsons and seeing Hill every morning with the paddling club he’d started, pushing their boats into the harbour. The retired police officer turned well-known local artist would walk by Lumley’s restaurant every day and say hello. “Never short for a comment or an opinion, which I thought was great.”

Citizens on Patrol and Business Watch initiatives, particularly during the pandemic closures, where citizens would guard and patrol Gibsons businesses, were other Hill highlights for Lumley. He also remembered chairing the policing committee and Hill volunteering on it as the town contemplated its eventual transition to the next tier of policing. As the first meeting came, “half the people didn't show up, but Ed showed up.” 

Hill took his turn with the mic to thank council. “Your life is going on out there but you're here doing this, so right back at you. Thank you.”

Conchita Harding

When she moved to Gibsons a decade ago, Coun. Annemarie De Andrade was looking to volunteer in the community. “Someone told me, ‘Go and see Conchita, she always needs help with Sea Cavalcade. And then I did.” Conchita Harding was organizer of Gibsons’s community festival for a quarter century. “As put by a long-time volunteer, ‘Conchita pulled a rabbit out of the hat every year to get these events running for families on the coast to enjoy,’” said De Andrade. 

De Andrade noted that Harding’s volunteer CV is long: chamber of commerce, Ferry Advisory Committee, Make-A-Wish Foundation, the museum society and the annual Nutcracker performance, to name a few. “Whatever Conchita took on, it was achieved with the utmost professionalism and for anyone taking over her place, she will be a tough act to follow.”

Harding recounted her husband telling her Town of Gibsons was calling her (ultimately to invite her to the award presentation) and her asking “What have I done now?” “Because I’m always in trouble, right?" 

She challenged every one in the room to get into trouble, for the sake of the community. “Do we need a motion to do that?” she asked council. 

Final report

Where Croal, De Andrade and Lumley are running for re-election, Beamish and Ladwig are not. 

“It's been my honour to work with you the last four years,” Beamish thanked council, adding that he and his wife are leaving for Haida Gwaii on Oct. 25. “Not that we’re in a rush to get away, but it is a rush to beat the weather,” he said. It’s the end of a long career in municipal government, both as a staffer and as a last-minute mayor. 

“We’re not leaving a lot of open issues on the table to the next council. We're saying we've done our job, we've done our bit, we've closed off our files,” Beamish said. 

He urged the next council to continue with work to protect the Charman Creek lands and urged the creation of a greenbelt from Gospel Rock up to White Tower Park. “We can't lose that as a community, that's critically important to our future.”

Bears of note

In his report to council, Lumley noted that the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is bringing their organics program to commercial businesses. It’s significant also as the food byproducts that make up most of restaurants’ waste needs to be picked up every day, lest the large bear that’s been around Molly’s Reach area opportune on their garbage. 

Final adoptions

Grants of assistance for Mama’s Kitchen, MushrooMania Festival Society, Sunshine Coast Hospice Society and Driftwood Players were approved.

Bylaws adopted included the Town of Gibsons Records Management Bylaw, the rezoning of 757 School Road from Single-Family Residential Zone 2 to Multifamily Residential Zone 3, the rezoning of 609 Glen Road to reduce the minimum lot size to 500 square metres and the Permissive Property Tax Exemption bylaw.