Tomorrow marks the end of an era for my family. It's the first time in 32 years that my dad's name has not been on a ballot for the municipal election in the community I'm from.
32 years isn't just a season, or a good run. It truly is an era.
When I was 8 years old my dad took his first stab at local politics, putting his hat in the race to become a school board trustee. It's interesting to me that he was younger then, than I am now, when he got his start. He won his position handily that year and continued to sit as a member of the Garden Valley School Division Board of Trustees for 10 years. Looking back, I love the poetic irony of it all. Here was a man who hadn't graduated from high school himself sitting in a seat working to make the decision and policies for the schools in the community he loved. No one that voted for him cared that he had never graduated. They cared that he said what he believed and he didn't waiver. He cared about the school system because it represented the future of his town, and it was educating his own two kids. 10 years later his youngest child had graduated from high school and it was time to move on a new battle.
22 years ago my dad continued his political adventure and ran for what was then the position of town counsellor for what is now the city of Winkler. His connections, friendships, and passion won him that election, and every one since. In every way and in every opportunity he made his mark on council. My dad's never been known as someone to sit idly by when something is happening that he doesn't agree with or believe in. If he's passionate about something, you'll know about it. If he thinks something is happening that is underhanded or not in the best interest of the community, you'll know about that too. If he disagrees with you, you'll most definitely know about it. He made his positions crystal clear during his time on council, sometimes offending, usually challenging, often stirring-the-pot, but always promoting the community he loves.
My dad has never backed down from a battle or a fight he believes in, even if it wasn't the politically astute thing to do. He has championed the underdog and the forgotten, never agreeing to something just for political gain. His mantra has always been that "I'm not a politician". He's fashioned himself as a blue-collar, "every man's man" who remembers the ones that many have forgotten about. He's taken his lumps in the media and on the street, but he's never stepped back when his integrity is on the line.
I get my passion for politics and my willingness to engage in battle from my dad. It's not an easy row to hoe, but if it's how you're built, you can't help yourself. Much to his chagrin, my political stripes are vastly different than his in many ways. We disagree on many issues on many fronts... religion, politics, world events, ideology, just to name a few. We can spar and verbally banter until the heat is on, and our tempers are flaring. And then we agree to disagree, shake hands, and wait for our next chance to do do battle. He taught me well.
This past year I was engaged in a situation where my integrity and beliefs resulted in me loosing a job I really cared about. I knew that lots of people would question my decisions, my motives, and my actions, but I never wondered if my dad would support me. I knew he would, because standing up for what he has believed in is how he's done politics his whole life. It's how he started, and tonight - after 32 years in municipal politics, it's how he's ending.
Well done, dad. You did your community, and yourself, proud.