Outgoing White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson

Outgoing White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson

‘Absolute honour’ to lead city: Ferguson

Outgoing mayor cites land aquisition, town-centre vision among proudest accomplishments

Serving as White Rock’s mayor has been a good – albeit sometimes challenging – run, Catherine Ferguson said in her final address to council this month.

The single-term mayor described her past three years as head of the city as “an absolute honour and an incredible learning experience that I will carry with me forever.”

“It has made me a wiser, more patient, more tolerant person, and I think I’m better-equipped now than I was when I started to contribute to the world in a much more in-depth and understanding way,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson, who was elected mayor in 2008 after one term as a councillor, announced last month she would not pursue another term in the chair. The following week, she was named as the new executive director of the White Rock/South Surrey Hospice Society.

In bidding farewell to citizens Nov. 14, she named several council efforts of which she is proud: creation of the Town Centre Vision; a revitalization bylaw; and completing ownership of the city block on which city hall, RCMP, fire services and the library are located, through purchase of the parcel occupied by the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

“We now own the entire city block. You, actually, own the entire city block, as residents,” she said. “I think that was a very smart move… and I think it will be up to the next council as to what’s done or not done with that. But we have options that we have never had before.”

Ferguson – who actively campaigned for eventual successor Wayne Baldwin – encouraged citizens not to dwell on the loss of access to Semiahmoo Park, which was fenced off by Semiahmoo First Nation late last year following discovery of a growing sinkhole on the park’s east side.

“I think it’s very important that we focus on the time we had access to that park and be thankful for that, because it is their property, not ours,” she said.

Other highlights Ferguson identified included strengthening the city’s relationships with Semiahmoo First Nation and the City of Surrey; finalization of a brand for the city – after one suggested by consultants during her term as a councillor was soundly rejected; the purchase of additional parkland; refurbishment of the White Rock Museum & Archives; maintaining a debt-free status despite a recession; and increased development.

With regard to the latter, Ferguson said there is still “a lot” of work to be done, and barriers to be removed.

Ferguson’s time on council hasn’t been without controversy. Issues that have stirred the pot include a January 2011 decision by council to allow Royal Avenue trees to be cut for views, and comments made by Ferguson herself in August 2010 after photographs of past mayors and councils were removed from city hall walls.

Other storms that Ferguson weathered included a court case launched shortly after the 2008 election that successfully challenged then-councillor James Coleridge’s win, resulting in the election of returning councillor Grant Meyer; the 2009 decision to consider contracting the city’s fire services to Surrey; and the August 2010 discovery of E. coli in the city’s water system.

While Ferguson steered away from highlighting any negatives during her presentation, she acknowledged such moments contributed to what was achieved.

“Although there has been some difficult times on our council, I have to say that through good and challenge, there’s growth and those learnings have come as a result of that,” she said.

“Despite our challenges, we have accomplished a great deal.”

This week, Ferguson said she is looking forward to having “a little bit of time off,” but confessed she has not thought about how it will feel to no longer be the city’s mayor.

Her last official act is to take place Monday, when she passes the chain of office to Baldwin in a 7 p.m. ceremony at the White Rock Community Centre (15154 Russell Ave.).

“I don’t think I’ve completely processed everything, because it’s been a very busy time,” she said. “In my head, I’m in two jobs.”

Looking ahead, Ferguson all-but-promised she would return to politics, although she couldn’t say when or at what level.

“I’ve been bitten by the bug and it started a long, long time ago,” she said.

“The world is full of opportunities and I like to leave myself open to it all.”