Earlier this month, Paul Butler capped off a career that spanned nearly 30-plus years, and started thousands of kilometers away in Liverpool, England, and eventually brought him to Nanaimo and then Qualicum Beach.
Butler recently left his job at the top planner at the Town of Qualicum Beach, entering into retirement, as many people often do in the mid-Island. He says he has been planning it for years and through a lot of succession planning over the last few years, has left the town in good hands under his replacement, planner Luke Sales.
Butler got his start in community and urban planning in Liverpool — his home town — more than 20 years ago. After attending college, he spend six years as a planner in that large city — that had a planning department of around 200 people.
His girlfriend at the time convinced him to take a holiday to Vancouver Island, to where her parents had emigrated.
“I liked the place,” he recalled. “So we made some arrangements, got married and stayed in the country.”
Six months later, Butler found himself with a new job, in the City of Nanaimo’s planning department. While he was immersed in urban design in Liverpool, he said it was very specialized work. In Nanaimo, Butler got to branch out into a variety of areas. The job, he said, always got bigger the smaller the community got.
Some 20 years ago, Butler saw an opportunity in Qualicum Beach, and took the job as the town’s lone planner. He got to put his skills to work in a community that has always been going through some degree of change.
“I thought Qualicum Beach was wonderful,” He said, noting that at the time, the downtown core was not all it could be — but there was plenty of potential.
“There was definitely an atmosphere in Qualicum Beach,” he explained. “Nanaimo back them was a bit bureaucratic. In Qualicum Beach, there were councillors who you could talk to all the time.”
When he came to the town all those years ago, there were 3,000 people living there and they were just getting into the nuts and bolts of a new community plan. He said there were plans in the past — but this was his first time being entirely responsible for it.
“Over the last 20 years, there has been a lot of growth — even in the last 10 years,” he said. “Some people don’t think it’s been enough, but it’s been there.”
Growth continues, as does the town’s need to plan for its future. Butler said Sales is more than capable of taking on the job — he he’s now looking forward to this next phase of his life.
The News’ interview with Paul Butler was extensive. Watch for the full scoop online at www.pqbnews.com.