There will be at least one new face around the council chamber after the upcoming municipal election wraps up in October.
After 41 years of public service, two-term councilor Larry Samson has announced that he will not seek to keep his seat on council.
“I’ve been on council for seven years and before that I was 34 years in the fire service here in Campbell River,” Samson says. “It’s time.”
Like all jobs, Samson says, there have been ups and downs over his seven years in council chambers.
It certainly didn’t start on a high note.
“The hardest thing I had to do in my time on council, I think, was back when I first got on,” Samson says. “In what was our first or second financial meeting, we were told by the chief financial officer at the time, ‘Oh, by the way, Catalyst has cut back on their taxes and you’re $2-million-plus in the hole, and oh, by the way, the previous council took out over $1-million from the reserves, so you’re looking at being about $3-million in the hole.’”
The decision that needed to be made, Samson says, was whether to increase residential taxes fairly substantially year after year to make up that deficit over time or “pull the band aid off” and have one sizable increase that would certainly hurt, but wouldn’t be drawn out over time.
“It was extremely hard for people to face, especially in those unsettling times when the mill was shutting down,” he says. “It was an extremely tough decision, but looking back on it, I think it was the right way to go. When you see how well Campbell River rebounded from the closure of the mill and how well we’re doing today … I’m not sure that would have happened the way it did if we’d made a different decision.”
As for who he’d like to see sitting in his chair after the votes are counted in October, Samson says he’d like to see a much younger face than his own. He admits there are barriers to that, however.
“I’d like to see a younger demographic running for office,” he says. “The problem is that there is so much work – so much reading material and so many reports you need to study. When you’re young and you’ve got kids and a career, it’s hard to take on that extra responsibility.”
But no matter who ends up sitting around that table, Samson says there’s one thing above all else he wants to see as the city moves forward.
“We need to get a handle on our taxes,” he says. “We’re going to really have to look at what’s reasonable. Yes, people want more services and they don’t really want to see services cut, so we have to look at how we tackle this going forward so it’s not so onerous on people.”
So what’s next for Samson?
Well, he wants to spend more time with his family – especially his grandkids – and maybe see some parts of the world he hasn’t gotten to yet.
“I’m also looking at probably joining Chuck DeSourcy and being part of the Willow Creek Streamkeepers,” he says. “That’s something I can take my grandchildren and go do and keep helping out.”
Is there anything he’s going to miss?
“Well, I’m not going to miss the paperwork,” he says with a laugh, “but I will miss working with the other councilors. While we certainly don’t always agree on everything, there’s a lot of respect for each other and each other’s views.”
And he’ll still be around, after all.
“I’ve already told them I’ll probably be in the gallery when they’re doing financial planning if they need me for anything,” he says with a smile.