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Viewpoint: Farewell to The Admiral

by Joyce Carlson It didn’t have to end the way it did. Mayor Stewart Alsgard lost his bid for a fifth term in office. The defeat came after weeks of acrimonious relations between the mayor and his council, and between his supporters and detractors.

by Joyce Carlson It didn’t have to end the way it did. Mayor Stewart Alsgard lost his bid for a fifth term in office. The defeat came after weeks of acrimonious relations between the mayor and his council, and between his supporters and detractors. After 12 years of service to the City of Powell River, it was not the conclusion that many people had hoped to see. There were options but there are consequences to the actions we choose to take and in the advice we choose to accept.

Instead of focusing on the past few weeks, I want to go back years.

I first learned about Stewart by reading his father’s column I’ll Take Vanilla in the Powell River News when I was a young girl. Al Alsgard wrote about family calling his son, The Admiral. That early nickname predicted a career with the navy that included assignments at sea and on shore. When he retired from active duty, he returned to Powell River, the town where he had been born and raised, opening Books and Stationery store. He became president of Powell River Chamber and Commerce, founding chair of Community Futures and coroner.

I remember how proud I was listening to him speak at so many occasions. Because of his experience, serving as navy aide-de-camp for the Governor General, he had an appreciation for the other official language. Opening remarks were made in English and French, and later he added Tla’Amin.

Former principal of Assumption School John Flynn had seen mayors wearing chains in other communities and suggested Powell River adopt one as well. Who hasn’t seen the mayor, striding into a meeting or event, carrying what most would think was a computer case? He was mocked for his use of the chain by some and acclaimed by others. Indeed, the chain became a focus of the challenge for the mayor’s chair in this election.

Pomp and circumstance evokes positive and negative reaction among citizens. The issue of flags and flagpoles attracted comments from both sides. I actually enjoyed seeing the flags flying. We are part of a large country and the world. It’s good to be reminded of that so we don’t become insular in our thinking.

The mayor also set an example of use of public transit, riding the bus to and from city hall. I rode with him and watched how he interacted with young people and others who used that method of transportation. While many of the buses continue to make their circuits empty of passengers, they provide an essential service for specific segments of the community.

Most important among what was accomplished during Alsgard’s 12 years was the Sliammon Accord. It defines mutual recognition of both communities, including Tla’Amin’s “inherent right for self-government,” and outlines principles of co-operation.

The genesis of the accord came through Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nation members’ concern about the impact the city’s seawalk had on archaeological features. It gave Tla’Amin full recognition of their traditional territory as a sign of respect.

The city and Tla’Amin also developed a protocol agreement on culture, heritage and economic development.

It could have ended differently but it didn’t and that’s unfortunate.

Joyce Carlson is publisher of the Powell River Peak and has been in the newspaper business for 42 years.

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