During his 15 years serving the Township of Spallumcheen as councillor and mayor, Will Hansma has attended thousands of meetings.
Meetings with constituents, business leaders, premiers, MLAs.
Monday’s meeting was different.
Hansma, joined at the meeting by his wife, Wilma, his children and grandchildren, said goodbye to municipal politics – for the time being – as he officially turned over the reins to incoming mayor Janice Brown.
“Will has put in considerable time in meetings as mayor and he’s been a great leader for Spallumcheen, in my opinion,” said township administrator Lynda Shykora, shortly before she presented Hansma with a framed print of the Spallumcheen valley.
“He’s been a good statesmen. He’s really dedicated. He’s represented Spallumcheen well in dealings with premiers, MLAs, or local farmers.”
Hansma, 54, owner and publisher of the Okanagan Advertiser newspaper, did not seek re-election in last month’s municipal election after serving 13-and-a-half years as the township’s mayor
He began his political career in 1996 by being elected as a councillor, and ran in a byelection for mayor in 1998 after Richard Medhurst resigned.
“At the time, I was a little concerned about how things were being done, and I always paid a lot of attention to politics,” said Hansma, reflecting on his decision to run for a spot on council.
When he became mayor in 1998, that first term, admittedly, was “tumultuous at times,” as the mayor and council were all green.
“I didn’t always follow proper procedure and some councillors would challenge me,” said Hansma.
“It was a complete transition council. Everybody that was on council before did not get re-elected, so it was a whole new council.”
In his first six months as mayor, Hansma immersed himself in municipal legislation, making sure he knew and understood how everything worked, then started on the job.
Over the next 13-plus years, Hansma put his stamp on things like improvements to Highway 97A through the township, the road network within Spallumcheen and, one thing he’s quite proud of, his work on having a tower constructed at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
“Myself and George Abbott started that back in, I guess, 2000, and I’m really proud of that,” said Hansma. “George was the health minister and I was chair of the hospital district, I was chair of that for five years.”
Another thing he can look back on with pride is the fact the electorate voted him back to serve five consecutive terms as mayor.
“It was always humbling and overwhelming that people had that kind of confidence in me to manage their municipality, their tax dollars,” he said. “It always gave me a great sense of confidence.”
Hansma, twice, took a leave of absence from the mayor’s post to run unsuccessfully in federal politics, trying to become the MP for the Okanagan-Shuswap under the Liberal banner.
He won’t rule out another run at federal politics, nor will he rule out running again for municipal politics. For now, however, Hansma feels the township’s in very good hands.
“There’s a good mix,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s any issues. Everything should be fine. They’re going to have to realize there’s a lot of work there and get their noses to the grindstone, get on with it and get it done right.”
Councillors Ralph Leyenhorst and Dave Brew were also recognized for their contributions Monday, though both were absent from the meeting and swearing in of the new council.
Leyenhorst, who did not seek re-election, was given a framed Spallumcheen valley print.
Brew, who ran unsuccessfully against Brown, asked that in lieu of a gift, a donation be made on his behalf to the Medical Loan Cupboard charity.