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With death of Mel Couvelier, community loses veteran leader

Former Saanich Mayor Mel Couvelier circa 1977 - Courtesy Saanich Archives (1980-014-024)
Former Saanich Mayor Mel Couvelier circa 1977
— image credit: Courtesy Saanich Archives (1980-014-024)

Mel Couvelier, the former Mayor of Saanich and a longtime politician, died Monday.

Couvelier had battled illness since a January diagnosis, which he and his family kept private.

Couvelier served as Mayor of Saanich from 1977 through 1986, when he was elected MLA and appointed Minister of Finance by then Premier Bill Vander Zalm. Before being elected mayor, Couvelier served on Saanich Council in 1974 and 1975 under Mayor Ed Lum. He was also the president of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

"He was always the optimist, always trying to figure out a way to get things done, to accomplish what was being discussed," said Mayor Frank Leonard. "He was always trying to figure out a way to make it happen, which is what you look for in someone involved in public affairs."

Leonard looked to Couvelier as a mentor, as did Murray Coell, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.

Coell, an alderman while Couvelier served as mayor, announced the passing of his colleague Wednesday at the Legislature.

"He'll be remembered as a strong mayor of Saanich with a vision for the municipality and a believer in community service," Coell said. "His whole life he was involved in community service from the time he was a young person through until the time he passed."

Couvelier, a peninsula resident for more than 20 years, ran for mayor of Sidney in 2008. He was also an original founder of Glendale Gardens and Woodland, a not-for-profit organization he passionately supported.

Roger Charles, executive director of Glendale Gardens, saw Couvelier continue to attend meetings "regularly and faithfully" through the course of his illness.

"His legacy would be the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific," Charles said. "His contacts and personal force were instrumental in all of our discussions, without question."

Couvelier is survived by his wife, Millie, of Sidney, sons Rod and Rick of Victoria and daughter Melissa of North Saanich. Details regarding the cause of death or funeral services haven't been released.

"He didn't retire from public life when he was no longer elected," Leonard said. “He continued to be involved in issues that would make the community better and he's really going to be missed."

nnorth@saanichnews.com

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