The hippy’s done pretty good.
Earl Shipmaker first entered local politics in 1975 with hair down to his shoulders, and his presence initially made waves among the establishment at the Regional District of North Okanagan.
“Pat Duke (then-Lumby mayor) couldn’t tolerate liberals but after I started operating, people forgot my appearance,” said Shipmaker, who now has short, grey hair and is retiring from elected office.
At the time in the mid-1970s, the 26-year-old Shipmaker was a social worker for the Splatsin and he decided to run for director for rural Enderby (Area F).
“I had always been fascinated with politics and the best way to get information was to run,” he said.
With the help of some friends, a campaign was launched.
“We knocked on doors. I lost Grindrod but I won every other poll,” he said
RDNO was dominated by legendary politicians, including Duke and Coldstream’s Russ Postill. But the new kid ultimately found his stride and made his presence known around the table.
Shipmaker went on to serve as board chaiperson for 14 years, but in 1999, he lost his rural Enderby seat to Jean Tuominen.
“She beat me at my own game. She went out into the community and worked hard (campaigning),” he said.
Shipmaker spent the next three years focused on his career as a financial advisor. But in 2002, the appeal of public service was too hard to ignore and he ran for Enderby council.
He held that position for 12 years until deciding not to seek re-election Nov. 15.
“I had a wonderful last term,” said Shipmaker.
“We had an excellent functioning council and it was pretty hard to justify they needed me.”
While pleased with the direction Enderby has taken, he says RDNO has changed.
“They compartmentalized it. There isn’t so much a whole now,” he said of stand-alone committees focused on Greater Vernon and the rural areas.
“When I was there, there were examples of people putting the region above their own self-interest and that doesn’t happen much anymore.”
With his elected duties ending, Shipmaker will now help residents in need become more sustainable while providing advice to cultural organizations seeking grants.
Shipmaker admits a life without politics will be an adjustment.
“I will miss the social interaction with people. I met people I wouldn’t normally get to meet,” he said.