The upcoming municipal election marks a milestone for veteran White Rock politician Louise Hutchinson.
It will mark the first time in 4½ decades that she and husband, Don, (recently named one of Surrey’s Civic Treasures) have complete freedom to do as they choose.
“Together, we have no responsibilities to anything outside of ourselves,” Hutchinson said in her report to council Monday, explaining why she did not file papers to try and retain her seat on White Rock council.
“I’m footloose, fancy-free and the decision, while a tough one, is absolutely the right one.”
The septuagenarian first got involved with White Rock council in 1985 – “almost half a lifetime ago” – and served three terms before giving up the path in 1996 in favour of her family and a career working with special needs children.
She sought a return to council in the last municipal election, she said, because she sensed something was not quite right at city hall.
For the first time in recent memory, there were grumblings in the community; an apparent disconnect between those running the city and the people they represented, she said.
And, there were murmurings that serious consideration should be given to amalgamating with Surrey.
Rather than sit and watch things unfold, Hutchinson decided to wade in.
“There was just something not happening,” she told Peace Arch News this week.
“In order to get to the bottom of it, you have to get in the middle of it. This was to turn the ship.”
It has been a term to remember.
In addition to multiple changes to senior-level staff at city hall, there has no shortage of colourful, sometimes contentious, issues – from the approval of a highrise on Vidal Street and an eight-storey care facility for Oxford Street, to the launch of efforts to take over responsibility for the city’s water supply and the review of Marine Drive pay-parking rates.
Hutchinson said she and Robinson were “peas from the same pod” when it came to the city, and she had been looking forward to working with him on a review of the city’s single-family zoning.
For Hutchinson, the bylaw is one of two key pieces of unfinished city business she is leaving behind. The other is the review of the White Rock’s Official Community Plan.
Passionate about the arts, Hutchinson is particularly proud of the work accomplished by the city’s Cultural Activity task Force, which she chaired for two years.
“We brought all of the people who had some aspect of art in their mandate… and they all ended up helping each other,” she said.
“That was what was just so beautiful to see.”
At council Monday, Hutchinson acknowledged that the move to a four-year term also played a role in her decision not to run on Nov. 15.
She pledged to continue to make her presence known for the balance of the term.
“I still have 40 days to make a lot of noise – and I will,” she said.
Mayor Wayne Baldwin said the community owes Hutchinson “a debt of gratitude,” and quipped that she would not be able to simply sail off into the sunset.
“You’re going to continue to be a part of this community whether you like it or not,” he said.