Former Powell River mayor and qathet Regional District chair Colin Palmer died on Friday, March 13, at the age of 81 and the tributes are pouring in.
Palmer was fondly remembered by several community leaders, who spoke highly of his many years of service to the region, as a school teacher, businessman and politician.
Palmer began his political career as a Powell River city councillor, serving from 1973 to 1977. He went on to lead the city as mayor from 1984 to 1987.
From 1999 to 2018, Palmer represented Electoral Area C of the qathet Regional District as a director and from 1999 to 2014, he acted on behalf of the entire region as chair of the regional district.
He also served as chair of the Powell River Regional Hospital District from 1999 to 2018.
According to a media release from the qathet Regional District, he was a dedicated, veteran politician, who tirelessly advocated for improving services for the citizens he served. He was instrumental in promoting local economic development and highlighted the importance of transportation accessibility within the region. He was one of the first local environmentalists and even before he became an elected official, was drafting public briefs for the Powell River Anti-Pollution Association.
More recently, he was dedicated to supporting advocacy groups in their efforts to improve hospital and health facilities.
Patrick Brabazon, chair of the qRD, commented on Palmer’s knowledge and achievements in the community.
“Having served as a councillor and mayor of the City of Powell River for many years, he brought with him extensive knowledge of local government,” stated Brabazon in the media release. “Colin represented Electoral Area C for 20 years and served as chair of the board for 16 of those. As such, he served the whole of the regional community with his energy and knowledge. Colin’s contributions will not be forgotten. We offer our condolences to Colin’s wife, Ann and family.”
The media release concluded by stating Palmer will be remembered for his passion, enthusiasm and commitment to local governance for more than 25 years.
Former Powell River mayor Stewart Alsgard said he had known Palmer for more than 50 years.
“I first met him when I came back to Powell River in the early 1960s when Colin was teaching at Brooks school,” said Alsgard.
“He became involved with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets here as one of the officers of the corps. Colin was a very gifted teacher and had a real ability to communicate and maintain the aura of being an officer of the corps. He was a role model to dozens of young people at that time.”
Alsgard said Palmer’s interests in the community were broad. He left teaching to become involved in the Powell River Progress newspaper, where he served as publisher. That morphed into his business Phoenix Printers, Alsgard said, and Palmer became interested in local politics, where he would become a fixture for many years.
Alsgard recalled that Palmer was interested in BC Ferries and was a very good representative for the community in advancing its transportation interests.
“He held their feet to the fire and many of the improvements of that era, and to this day, are to his credit,” he said.
Alsgard, who went into office without political experience, having come straight from a naval background, was able to call upon Palmer frequently for advice.
During Alsgard’s time as mayor and Palmer’s time as regional board chair, highlights included the sustainability charter and the signing of the community accord, between the Tla’amin Nation, the city and the regional district.
Health care was also an area where Palmer had influence with the regional hospital board, according to Alsgard.
He said on a number of occasions, he dropped down to Palmer’s print shop for discussions about particular issues of the day.
“He could provide a good counterbalance to things taking place,” said Alsgard. “He was a mentor to many.
“His presence in the community reached far and wide. He touched many, many personalities and organizations because he took time to listen and speak to people. The community can be described as grateful for his public work and his personal presence. It’s quite a legacy.”
Mayor Dave Formosa said he first recalls Palmer as his social studies teacher. Formosa said Palmer formed a group called the Powell River Anti-Pollution Association and Formosa joined.
“We would do activities in the community, cleaning up and worrying about the climate of the world.”
Formosa would later get to know Palmer better, as a young adult, with the federal Liberal party. There was a group of “grandfathers,” who brought him in as the new young blood, handed him their files and mentored him for a number of years, handing the torch over. He met with Palmer with some degree of regularity.
Palmer was Formosa’s printer and Formosa gave his business to Palmer wherever possible. Formosa also would “sit, chat-chat and solve the world’s problems at the print shop.
“He was a good friend, he was opinionated, thoughtful and dedicated to his community,” said Formosa.
When Formosa ran for mayor he narrowly defeated Alsgard for the position and there was a time where he couldn’t go to see Alsgard. Formosa used Palmer as his mentor until he and Alsgard “got our hugs back together.” Formosa said he is grateful to Palmer for the guidance that he received.
Formosa said Palmer was very dedicated to his family.
He added that Palmer is known throughout the province for his hard work and advocacy in many areas.
“He fought hard for all of the interests of Powell River and represented us very well.”
Bob Astrope, who served on city council with Palmer, said he recalled one occasion when he was on council and Palmer was on the regional district board, having coffee, when Alsgard walked in and sat down.
“We were sitting there talking and it went dead silent in the place,” said Astrope, laughing. “They were all sitting there listening for what was going to happen – they thought something was going to happen, with three politicians sitting there having coffee. They all got a big laugh out of it.”
Astrope said he always got along with Palmer on council and they were “pretty good friends.”
“I think Colin tried to improve the community as best he could, and if you could give him a hand in any way he sure was appreciative of it,” said Astrope.
Ken Needham, who was the municipal treasurer when Palmer served on municipal council, said he spent quite a bit of time with Palmer as a member of the Anglican church prior to their crossover with the municipality.
“The church was my first encounter with Colin, way back in the mid-’60s,” said Needham.
In terms of service with the municipality, Needham said Palmer was a good mayor.
“I’ve always gotten along with him,” said Needham. “In his position he was a good listener as the mayor.
“He was mixed up in politics for a long time. As a politician he was polished in his conduct of meetings.”
Needham said Palmer was always conscious of the dollar.
“He and I got along pretty well in that regard,” said Needham.
“I was sad to hear about Colin. It is a loss to the community.”