With just a few more days in the mayor’s chair, the Sooke News Mirror took the time to have a chat with outgoing Mayor Janet Evans.
For the past 12 years, Janet Evans has been a dedicated and tireless member of council. She took office under the mentorship of Ed Macgregor, Sooke’s first mayor after incorporation in 1999.
At the time she was a member of the Lioness Club and they encouraged her to run for a seat on the new council.
Evans said she was always trying to get something done for the seniors, safety, Halloween, etc. and being on council would make things easier.
“Basically, it became the next 12 years of my life,”s aid Evans. “Our first council was under the direction of Ed, my mentor, father-figure, and we set the vision we wanted.”
She said that when he passed, no one else wanted to run so she picked up the torch lit by Macgregor and moved council forward.
“I think he’d be very proud. We managed to do much of the stuff (in the vision).”
Her first years as mayor were intimidating and presented a huge learning curve.
“I argued that I couldn’t do it, but I had good staff — Tom Day and Bonnie Sprinkling to help me along. After the second year I had thicker skin.”
Of her 12 years, Evans spent six as a councillor and six as mayor.
“It’s been rewarding, it is a full-time job. I was also on the CRD Board and I believe it should be mayor who sits on the board as they have a strong voice.”
Of the accomplishments and developments in Sooke over her tenure, the most satisfying one and the one she is proudest of is the sewer plant.
“The first flush was a good day,” said Evans. “It was Ed’s dream as well. I still have the golden shovel from digging the dirt.”
Along with the proud moments are the sad ones and Evans said her biggest disappointment had to be the failed referendum for a connector road.
“My most disappointing day was when the referendum failed on the road, now we are trying to do the same thing with our money.”
She said it may have been because of lack of communication.
Beautification of the downtown core and a new “Waterview” street to the water’s edge are things which are still things she hopes to see accomplished. She said it took Langford at least 12 years to get their beautification projects done. Negotiations with property owners for Waterview and the roundabout are moving forward and she had hoped to finalize things before she left office. She said Ministry of Transport (highways) wants the roundabout and now that they have reached a Memorandum of Understanding in regard to the first stages of the connector route they can move forward. She said money for these projects comes from Development Cost Charges not property taxes.
“We’re right there on the cusp, unfortunately the economy is in the tank. We have huge potential here which we haven’t even tapped into. I’m proud of staff, they worked hard and they’ve taken a lot of crap too.”
Evans said the district’s finances are in order and solid, despite the negative campaigning on that facet.
“I’m proud of leaving office with that.”
She said people want a lot of things to happen in Sooke but they do not want any tax increases.’
She would like the new council to continue on with the trails and parks plans as there is money in the park reserve fund but this can only be used for acquisition of more park land, not development or amenities.
She spoke of the incredible volunteers in the community and their impact on Sooke.
“Our volunteers are the best ever, I don’t any other community has as many.”
She justified the five-year contract with the district’s lawyer came about because the district had to constantly prove people wrong.
“Lawyer’s fees were out of control, now we know what we are paying each month.”
All communities have issues and all make mistakes and she said that with the amount of turnover in staff that she has seen over the past 12 years, it may be difficult to get good people.
“People won’t apply to a municipality with a high turnover,” she said.
Of the work of the councils she has sat with Evans said, “This last council had issues but we still got tons of work done, I’m proud of the last 12 years and the last three. The council was hardworking and their hearts are in the right place.”
She hopes the new council will take all those plans and run with them rather than have them gather dust on a shelf somewhere.
Her run for trustee with the Sooke School District came at a difficult time. Her husband had a heart attack and she said her priorities went “whoosh.” She wishes those who won the best.
Rumours being what they are, are rarely based on the whole truth and when asked if she had aspirations of running for provincial politics, she adamantly said “no.”
“It’s the stress, it takes you away from your community and is is not as hands-on.”
All that said and done, Janet Evans said life goes on and she is ready for new challenges, Her resume is out there.