From the boardroom to using boards to build rooms.
It’s been a year of transition for former North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure after he lost to Al Siebring by a mere 11 votes in an all-Chemainus battle during the municipal elections last October. He elected not to seek a recount.
“I did talk to the chief elections officer,” Lefebure indicated while on the job of his housing project on Willow Street in Chemainus. “She said with the electronic balloting, you’d have to have something screwball going on for there to be an error.”
So ended a long tenure in political life for Lefebure. He was a North Cowichan councillor from 1999-2002, mayor from 2002-2008 and 2011-2018 as well as chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District in 2005 and from 2015-2018 inclusive.
Following the election results, it was literally back to the drawing board for Lefebure to rekindle his former life as a construction worker. Lefco Developments Ltd., co-owned by wife Marlene Hayes, hadn’t been involved in any big building projects during his time in office.
“I was only doing the odd maintenance job on the buildings we owned,” he confided.
With more time on his side suddenly, Lefebure didn’t have any meeting rooms to sit around in and was anxious do a construction project in the field that sparked his interest going back to his days as a student at Carleton University in Ottawa.
The ideal opportunity came along to redevelop his property at 9833 Willow St. into a seven-unit multi-family building and Lefebure found himself on the opposite side of the process of gaining approvals and permits from North Cowichan. The Cottages on Willow have been rising from the ground to street level steadily in the last few months, with Lefebure and brother Todd doing most of the work.
“Seniors building housing for seniors,” Todd joked.
Jon Lefebure’s son Sean was on the site frequently during the summer, particularly with the rebar work before returning to school. Various electrical, plumbing and cement work has been contracted out along the way.
“A few weeks, we’ll start working on the walls,” said Lefebure. “Slow and steady.”
Physically, he says he feels a lot better being outside to work again no matter what the weather conditions.
“I don’t think it’s healthy to sit in on meetings that stretch from two hours to 10 hours of your day,” Lefebure confided.
“I’m also very tired at the end of the day.”
But it’s a different kind of tired and a literal breath of fresh air after so many years being entrenched in public life.
With the demands of his current project, “I don’t even get a chance to think about other things,” Lefebure conceded. “There’s always a new problem to solve here.”
Overall, it’s been a rather painless transition, he remarked, other than a few aches and pains from bending and stretching in ways he hasn’t done for a few years.
Lefebure acknowledged he does miss aspects of his previous job.
“There were some new counsellors I was looking forward to working with, but I didn’t get a chance to,” he said. “The best part of my job was working with professional staff. I’ll always cherish those memories. When you add up all their knowledge and experience, it was a real treat to work with them.”
But sometimes things are just meant to be and that’s the way Lefebure feels about the election results in hindsight. “I don’t know anybody who likes to lose. It just seems the gods smiled on me. I had this to go to and this is where I like to be every day.
“The timing was perfect,” he said. “This project was ready to go. I couldn’t have afforded to build it if I wasn’t doing it myself.”
With his brother in the background whom he says has been “phenomenal”, “this is a bigger project than I usually tackle,” Lefebure indicated.
The units will be available as rentals when completed.
“My only sort of goal was to be finished by the end of next year,” Lefebure said. “Now I’m looking at like a year from now.”
He has no plans to run again in any future elections or it might lead to a dirty seven-letter word – d-i-v-o-r-c-e – with his wife.
“I told her we weren’t going to run again last time,” Lefebure chuckled. “That changed.”
This time, he’s keeping his nose to the construction grindstone.