Former MLA and Parksville mayor Paul Reitsma felt “foolish, humiliated and ashamed,” of the way his last experience with public office ended, but 14 years later he’s ready to try again.
First elected as a Port Alberni alderman in 1980, he spent nine years as Parksville mayor to 1996 when he was elected to represent Parksville-Qualicum in the legislature.
In 1998, after he was caught writing letters to local newspapers under assumed names praising himself and attacking opponents, Reitsma resigned to avoid becoming the first politician recalled in the Commonwealth.
“I acknowledged I was wrong,” he now shakes his head still appearing a bit surprised by his own actions, “I wasn’t raised that way, I didn’t raise my kids that way…” he said, adding that it led to a dark period of “six years of soul searching” before he reached a level of acceptance.
“I could not ask people to vote for me if I couldn’t vote for myself,” he said indicating that he has gone through a “scrubbing of the soul,” and is ready to move on.
Since 2004/2005 he’s slowly been getting back into political issues when people ask him for help with getting passports or dealing with the government.
“For the last six years I’ve been trying to keep a low profile, which is hard for someone who’s 6’6”,” he quipped.
“I never lost friends or family over it,” he said and he remained active in the community, volunteering and singing in choirs.
Now 63 and “basically retired after 30-plus years in business,” he believes his experiences can be be of value to Parksville, including “the valuable experience of having made mistakes.”
Thinking seriously of running for the last year, he said he’s spoken to over 300 people in Parksville and has been surprised by the level of dissatisfaction with things like waterfront development and a lack of transparency and decisiveness in city hall’s actions and planning.
He pointed to an incident at the Sept. 19 council meeting in which council had to vote five times, including re-votes, to sort out whether or not to accept recommendations from a consultant’s report, as evidence they are not as up on the rules of municipal politics as they should be.
“To have to ask staff about procedure all the time like that is embarrassing,” he said but quickly added that while he disagrees with their decisions he respects the people on council, who he is friendly with. He congratulates everyone who runs for public office.
On his community relationships, his professional campaign material has a dozen glowing testimonials from people like former Qualicum Beach mayor Jack Collins and Cy O’Leary, who spent 17 years on the Parksville Advisory Planning Commission.
Clearly passionate about current local politics Reitsma talked about a wide variety of issues from BC Ferries, paving and traffic issues, the boardwalk and what he called his pet project of a pier at the end of Parksville Beach, the poor relationship between developers and the city, the ongoing official community plan update process and the impact the closure of Kwalikum Secondary School would have on all of Oceanside.
He was particularly passionate about the recent vote by council to increase the pay of the next council.
“If elected I will bring a motion to reconsider the increase,” he said adding, if elected he would refuse the increase himself and return it to the city.
“It’s an insult to give themselves a 23 percent increase, and then we’ll have to have delicate negotiations with our union employees.”
“How do you sit down with a shop steward and insist on only a one percent increase knowing you gave yourself 23 percent, it’s hostile. You have to lead by example.”
Reitsma said he will not seek or accept donations from companies or individuals and he’s looking forward to campaigning on doorsteps.