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Committed to the rural: retiring Island mayor stayed true to his values over 35 years

Metchosin’s John Ranns reflects on 35 years in office as he prepares to step away from local politics
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns reflects on 35 years in municipal office in the Moralea Milne Garry Oak Restoration Project forest outside Metchosin’s municipal hall. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

Ahead of the municipal election in 1987, young organic farmer John Ranns did an interview with the Goldstream Gazette.

“I think it’s even more critical this year than last year that council has somebody who is committed to the rural lifestyle … Last year I was concerned that certain council members weren’t taking a position that would have ensured the preservation of the rural nature of Metchosin.”

Ranns won that election, taking on the position of alderman and would go on to serve on council for 35 years, including eight terms as mayor. But this was his last term in the big seat, with Ranns deciding against running in October’s municipal election.

“Thirty-five years. That’s a career. Prior to that, I had been an elected union president, a CUPE Local president for 17 years. So for 52 years of my life, I have been trying to solve other people’s problems. I want to know what life is like without that. I want to know what life’s like without that burden of responsibility.”

READ MORE: Longtime Metchosin mayor hopes to step away in 2022

READ MORE:Metchosin braces for hike in policing costs

Ranns is stepping away at an interesting time for Metchosin. The municipality just passed the dreaded 5,000 population mark, the benchmark where communities have to start paying their own policing costs in B.C. The district is still reckoning with how it’s going to meet those costs. One option, Ranns’ preferred one, is to approve industrial zoning on Sooke Road, but it’s a highly controversial topic.

“We have to be fiscally sustainable. Other than industrial, which doesn’t increase density, everything else requires density increases, which would kill us. So that’s why I think, as somebody that has devoted 35 years of his life to keeping his community rural, we have to look at industrial because it will provide us the additional income that we’re going to need to keep taxes affordable, without increasing density.”

Ranns said well-stocked reserve funds will help ease the burden of police costs while the district figures out other revenue streams. But he is worried future councils might fall into the trap of allowing higher density, or that tax increases might balloon.

Other big issues include the Mary Hill Indigenous Protected Area project, and the buffer zone land sale — a particularly contentious issue. The debate got heated at times and the vitriol was something Ranns said has spiked recently.

READ MORE: Relationships strained over Metchosin buffer zone sale

“The social media, the COVID, the frustrations in the public, the nastiness that’s been generated has really had an impact. Not just here, I mean I’ve heard it from mayors right across the region that it is much more difficult to deal with the issues.”

Ranns said he regretted how he managed the tension which led to divisions forming on this term’s council.

“Had I been a little younger, I might have been able to deal with a little more energy.”

There have also been highlights. Ranns served on a number of Capital Regional District boards and was instrumental in its parkland acquisition fund, which Ranns says has led to thousands of hectares of parkland added to the region.

“He always had the community’s best interest in mind. Sometimes he and I disagreed on issues and we could always have a vigorous debate at the council table, hold a vote and come away as friends afterwards,” said Coun. Andy Mackinnon who is also stepping away from council.

A lot has changed in Greater Victoria since Ranns was first elected, but Ranns and rural has been one constant.

“I probably feel the best (about the) the fact that I’m still sitting here in a rural community and not Langford,” Ranns said. “I think is becoming more obvious all the time, the value of this municipality to the region. It provides a lot of different opportunities from a regional perspective, we’ve got agriculture, we’ve got broad-based home-based business opportunities.

“We’ve got a lot of natural resources for people to come out and visit we’re really developing our community core here and there’s something pretty special and it’s different.”

Ranns said he’s turned down offers to sit on various boards. His focus will shift primarily to his farm.

“We’re leaving the next council with probably the best roads on the Island and a very small and dedicated staff,” said Ranns. “It’s not just me, I’ve been blessed with many great councils, who saw the vision, saw the future, and all helped build the good, resilient state that this municipality is in right now.”

The 2022 municipal election is scheduled for Oct. 15.


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