While Victor Chen left an indelible mark on those who worked with him too deep to measure, his sudden passing created a void that will prove impossible to fill. Chen, who died of natural causes on Saturday surrounded by the family he worshipped, served as manager of engineering construction for the City of Langford for 20 years.
Langford Mayor Stew Young recalled that Chen was one of the City’s original hires back in 1997. “First and foremost, he was an honourable man who treated everyone like a friend,” Young noted. “He was one of the first to understand the dynamics of what we were trying to accomplish in this community. Victor was responsible for most of the infrastructure you see that made Langford a better place to live. He was my go-to guy whenever there was a major problem. There wasn’t much Victor couldn’t solve, he always found a solution.”
Chen treated everyone with the same high level of respect, whether they were a resident, a developer, a colleague or a business owner, Young continued. “He understood the economics of building a better community and what it took to make that happen. He recognized from the first interview that we wanted to change the culture of what Langford was at that time. He understood the opportunity here and embraced it deeply. Victor helped change the culture of Langford to ‘can do.’ He was understanding and compassionate, and never complained once in 20 years.”
Mike Wignall first met Chen when he worked for the City of Colwood in 1987 when he came out to inspect a paving job at a small subdivision Wignall was working on. “I bumped in to him from time to time and got to know Victor much better when he worked for Langford,” said Wignall, president of Westbrook Consulting. “He was the solutions guy. If there was a problem, Victor worked it out.”
Chen was great at weighing options and coming up with something that worked by the end of the day, Wignall explained. “‘Will it work and will it be maintainable?’ That was Victor’s guideline and catchphrase. He was down to earth, always fair and had a real knack for taking people under his wing and bringing them along. Victor was an icon on the West Shore. He will be missed professionally and personally. Those will be big shoes to fill.”
Michelle Mahovlich first met Chen during the early days of construction at Bear Mountain. She has known him for 15 years, the last 10 in her capacity as director of engineering for the City of Langford.
“On paper I was Victor’s boss but in reality he was always our chief,” Mahovlich said. “He’s definitely always been a mentor to everyone, respected by all. Victor loved going out into the field and being very involved, seeing projects through from beginning to end.”
Chen, who welcomed his first grandson into the world only recently, always put family first, Mahovlich noted. “He loved his son and his daughter and adored his grandchildren,” she said. “He loved to play in golf tournaments and was an accomplished marksman.”
Mahovlich said staff at city hall have been overwhelmed by the thoughts and prayers that continue to flow in for Chen from colleagues to contractors and everyone in between, which speaks volumes to the kind of person he was. “Everyone in the office here will miss his generous smile and great sense of humour.”