Metchosin council is going to gain at least two new faces when councillors Larry Tremblay and Jo Mitchell step back from the table this November, and the newcomers will have some big shoes to fill.
Tremblay, 74, and Mitchell, 78, have a combined 15 years of service to their community on council, but beyond that, their longtime dedication to volunteering and community involvement in Metchosin is a hard act to follow. Both have been named as Volunteer of the Year over the years and both have been instrumental in developing what are now landmarks in the district.
“Jo and Larry have shown enormous levels of community service that goes above and beyond any council work that they’ve had to do,” says fellow councillor Moralea Milne. “We’ve had the best council for the last two terms. We’ve really worked well together as a team and it’s always been civil and respectful.”
Looking back over his two terms, Tremblay’s accomplishment nearest to his heart is “being involved in creating Old Barn Books.” The little shop, which started in a modest eight foot-by-eight foot space, is entirely dependent on donated books to stock its shelves, and began as a way to support the Metchosin School Museum and Pioneer Museum.
“We needed some way to raise money for renovations,” he says. Each year, the shop has been able to gather close to $5,000 for various projects in the museums, keeping them up to date. “That’s a lot of $1 and $2 books.”
Mitchell was elected to council in 2005, after realizing that some of her volunteering causes needed more attention from local government. “I joined council to make sure they were looked at.”
She started the Metchosin Community Association, reinvigorated the Healthy Communities Committee and led the charge to transform the empty elementary school into the home of the Metchosin Arts and Cultural Centre and the Seniors Resource Centre.
“I thought it was very sad to have a dead school,” she says.
As for what the pair plan to do once their council duties are finished, they have some ideas.
“I’ve never seen Tofino,” says Tremblay, adding that he and his wife, Judy, plan to explore the Island. “We’d love to see the winter storms up there, in a cabin on the beach.”
Mitchell laughs out loud when asked about her December plans. “Clean my house!”
She adds, “People don’t realize how much work council is. We all sit on five or six committees. If you’re a proper councillor, it’s a lot of hard work. I’m planning on enjoying more of a social life.”
She doesn’t plan on relinquishing all of her duties, however. “I’ll certainly stay on the seniors committee, and (the cultural centre). I regard those as my babies.”
For his part, Tremblay will be manning the book sales every Sunday at Old Barn Books and enjoying the chance to putter on his acreage. He has no reservations about his departure from council.
“It’s been a productive council for the last six to nine years,” he says. “I feel good about retiring.”
“(Mitchell and Tremblay) were both involved in a big way before they were on council and I’m sure they still will be,” adds Milne. “I’ve really come to appreciate their work ethic and their level of commitment. It will be very, very hard to replace them.”