This month marks a rare anniversary when it comes to longevity in B.C. civic politics: Lois Jackson is celebrating 40 years since being first elected to Delta council.
Saying some of the big issues when she arrived are still around in one form or another, Jackson has seen a lot take place here over the past four decades and has helped navigate Delta through a plethora of changes and ever-evolving challenges.
"In those early days people tended to know their neighbours a lot more because there were fewer of them. There were ratepayers groups in all of Delta and it was a very good way to reach people," Jackson told the Optimist recently.
"It took a lot of effort by a lot of people to accommodate the needs of the young families that moved here in those early days."
Jackson was first elected to council in December 1972 and, except for one term where she didn't run for re-election, she has served continuously.
In 1972, Jackson, a North Delta resident who campaigned for "orderly, planned quality growth patterns" and "preservation and production of agricultural lands," became the first female Delta alderman. At that time, she was a married Sunday school teacher with three children, having also been the past chair of the North Delta Ratepayers Association.
One of 10 candidates in that election, Jackson captured the third and final seat.
During that campaign, Jackson told the Optimist, "A woman's viewpoint on council has long been lacking."
In her recent interview looking back at her early days on council, she said, "There was a lot going on at the time. We certainly had a lot more active fishing community. It was a very energetic time, I'd say. Tom Goode eventually came on as mayor and it was his vision to develop Tilbury Park, so we went in and serviced the whole area."
It certainly was a different era back in 1972 as Dave Barrett's New Democrats won provincial office and CBC's The Beachcombers debuted
On the Delta scene, the population was still growing rapidly in the decade and a bit since the opening of the George Massey Tunnel, bringing various pressures and challenges, including the need to build schools on an annual basis.
That year also saw municipal
council, which had Dugald Morrison as mayor, discuss the idea of acquiring Burns Bog as a nature park, while also making plans to turn the former Paterson Park harness race track into a "major community park."
Jackson, who was officially sworn into office in January 1973, also recalled a controversial pitch by New Westminster to take Annacis Island from Delta's jurisdiction.
The biggest story to emerge in late 1972, though, was the provincial government's announcement it would pass legislation preventing farmland from being rezoned for urban use.
"Saving the farmland was a huge cry by all of us that ran and continues to be from my perspective."
Today, with Delta's population holding steady but a significant shift in demographics, both in terms of age and ethnicity, Jackson's council faces a different set of
challenges than existed in the 1970s. "Back in the early days when I was first elected in the early '70s, there was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 65 per cent of our population under the age of 19. So you can see the challenges that were there for everybody. In North Delta, for instance, we started building arenas and the old North Delta rec centre was one of the first and we started the outdoor pools."
Jackson said young people with nothing to do would converge at a shop-ping centre in North Delta and a protest there one day prompted police to read the riot act.
"That's when we put the addition to the Hillside Boys and Girls Club in North Delta to have a gymnasium to, at least, go part way in helping creating a space, particularly for the teens."
As far as development, in her early days, single-family homes on large lots were the norm. She noted there was much less opposition in Ladner to densification, including the construction of apartments, due partly because Ladner was already an older community.
Also at that time, the rough shape of sports fields was a hot issue as well as the need to find more industrial land, she recalled.
Jackson said Deltassist back in the early 1970s was primarily a group of organizations and churches where residents could obtain information about all parts of Delta, a useful tool when the Internet was decades away.
She added Delta has come a long way and changed greatly since her early days on council, including immigration influences in North Delta. Most residents are aware, she said, that continued changes and challenges are on the horizon with port and Tsawwassen Fist Nation development.
A political survivor, Jackson has run with a variety of slates over the years as well as an independent.
She has long been considered a populist and her longevity in civic politics has often been credited to her ability to adapt to a changing landscape.
After a three-year break in the mid-1990s, Jackson returned to Delta council in 1996 as a member of the upstart TriDelta party. She became mayor three years later, but has since broken ties with TriDelta.
She won a fifth term as mayor as part of the Delta Independent Voters Association ticket in last year's civic election. The victory was by her widest margin yet.
Jackson also served for several years as Metro Vancouver chair. She was recently awarded a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, due in part to her many years of civic service.
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