30th Anniversary: Frank Leonard a familiar face in the pages of the Saanich News

Frank Leonard served as councillor and mayor in Saanich for 28 years

Then-mayor Frank Leonard donned a top hat and bow tie to wish Saanich News readers a happy new year at the start of 1997.

Frank Leonard entered municipal politics in 1986, serving as a councillor until 1996, when he ran for mayor, a position he held until 2014.

Over those 28 years, he has met with ordinary people and public officials (not that these categories are mutually exclusive) of every background. So it would have likely taken some extraordinary event to get him flustered. But one such moment occurred on Sept. 25, 2010, when the district opened its fire training centre.

Then-Black Press photographer Sharon Tiffin attended the official opening and wanted to come away with something less ordinary.

“She had told me she would prefer something other than the usual ribbon cutting,” Leonard said. Since the occasion was the opening of a facility that prepares crews for high-angle rescue services, Leonard soon found himself in a harness dangling over the ground.

“So there I am hanging, cutting the ribbon,” said Leonard. “My heart was pounding so hard that I could barely hold my hands steady to cut the ribbon.”  Once back on ground, Leonard thanked everyone as quickly as he could, then stole himself away to catch his breath.

In his position, Leonard found himself in the public and the paper on a constant basis. Even the most cursory flip through the archives reveals Leonard as a person of many occasions.

In a shot marking the beginning of 1997, Leonard found himself doing his best Fred Astaire impression by donning a bow-tied tuxedo and top hat adorned with the phrase Happy New Year.

Of course, any focus on Leonard’s willingness to be the public face of council threatens to exaggerate style at the expense of substance.

Space prevents a full accounting of Leonard’s local accomplishments over the span of 28 years in municipal politics. Yet any such list would likely begin with his contributions towards protecting Saanich’s agricultural heritage, a legacy that he has carried in his current role as chair of the Agricultural Land Commission.

Leonard’s experience running Vancouver Island’s largest municipality also earned him the status of an important voice in the often cacophonous chorus of Greater Victoria politicians.

And if elections measure anything, Leonard will enter Saanich’s annals as perhaps the most popular mayor in its history.

When Leonard won his mayoral election in 1996, he defeated fellow councillor John Mika with double the votes. In 1999, he faced three opponents, winning by more than 13,000 votes. He won by acclamation in 2002 and again in 2005, a feat that prompted the following headline in the Saanich News dated Oct. 19, 2005: King Frank: Automatic for the People.

“Respect. It is a concept that few people have mastered as well as Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard,” it reads. Other assessments meanwhile praise his ability to build coalitions, while planning and pushing for long-term policies.

While Leonard won two more elections after his second acclamation, his margins of victory shrank each time out. His career in municipal politics ended on Nov. 14, 2014, when he lost by some 1,000 votes to Richard Atwell. When asked at the time if he had any advice for the new incoming mayor, Leonard simply said: “Saanich is a beautiful community. Don’t break it.”

Leonard helped to make it so.

 

Just Posted

Youth have privacy rights, doctor tells inquest into Oak Bay teen’s opioid death

Elliot Eurchuk died of a drug overdose. He was found unresponsive in his bedroom in April 2018

Saanich councillor says residents owed a bylaw like the rescinded EDPA

Coun. Nathalie Chambers also says council needs to apologize to a staff member

RCMP fine man $1,150 for camping, lighting campfire in Mill Hill Regional Park

Campfires prohibited at all regional parks except designated campgrounds

Victoria sees many new landmarks between 2018-2019

Bridges, buildings and more have popped up across Victoria in the past year

Woman flees North Saanich RCMP in dinghy

Victoria woman tries to escape in dinghy, arrested for break and enter, theft and mischief

Victoria church displays memorial tapestry for those lost to opioid crisis

Christ Church Cathedral hosts talks on opioid crisis on June 26 and July 3

POLL: Do you support the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

The federal government announced Tuesday its approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. oil tanker ban squeaks through final vote in Senate

Bill C-48 bars oil tankers from loading at ports on B.C’s north coast

’When thunder roars, go indoors’: How to keep safe before lightning strikes

Each year, an estimated 10 deaths and as many as 164 injuries are lightning-related

B.C. rolls out online registration to speed up evacuee processing

Central Okanagan district tests province’s streamlined emergency management digital self-registration

VIDEO: After 73 years, siblings separated by adoption reunite in B.C

Donna Smith of Abbotsford and Clayton Myers of Williams Lake are glad they met each other

NHL Draft 2019: First-round mock selections

Hughes expected to go No. 1 overall; Canucks have 10th pick

B.C.-born Carey Price brings young fan to tears at NHL Awards banquet

Anderson Whitehead first met his hockey idol after his mother died of cancer

Most Read