Wayne Hunter wouldn’t change much if he could go back and serve his two terms on Saanich council over again — but he might speak up a little more.
“I’d probably be more outspoken about my perspective on moving slowly even when we’re under pressure to move more quickly than our staff can attend to and we can afford,” said Hunter, explaining his perspective on maintaining a fiscally-responsible approach to infrastructure.
It’s one that he’ll admit isn’t always observed when councillors are adding items to their wish lists. His philosophy: let the mayor provide the leadership. When he did speak, he said, he felt he was representing a view that was in line with the district’s policies and not merely his own personal opinion.
That approach helped earn the respect of his council colleagues. “Some people, when you speak, they listen,” said Coun. Leif Wergeland. “Other people that are talking all of the time, you almost turn them off. There is wisdom in knowing when to share your wisdom and when to pull back and just listen … Wayne isn’t shy as far as addressing issues, but he’s also one who listens to what others have to say, too.”
Hunter came to Saanich council after having served as a Central Saanich councillor and mayor.
He initially sought public office because he wanted help his community overcome difficulties which he saw first hand in his work as an educator. In his final year as mayor, he was appointed principal of North Saanich middle school and chose to focus on that job rather than seek re-election.
In the years that followed, Hunter became a resident of Saanich. When he did, Mayor Frank Leonard invited Hunter to sit on the Saanich Police Board. That introduction to Saanich politics led directly to his successful campaign to join council in 2005.
“He had a depth of experience and helped all of us deal with issues and make decisions,” Leonard said.
Leonard is quick to tout all of the skills Hunter brought to council.
“He’s in incredible shape. When we had the (Victoria Hospitals Foundation) street hockey tournament, he was twice the age of the competitors and was the best player on any of the teams.”
Leonard also recognized the once-international hockey coach’s roots in education. Hunter, he said, often took the time to speak with the children at public events rather than the adults.
For Coun. Susan Brice, Hunter was a straight shooter and an enormous pleasure to work with.
“He has a firm, but very gentle style and wonderful people skills,” said Brice. “It’s easy to see why the students and the professionals that worked with him in the school district thought of him as a real asset.”
During his first term on Saanich council, when “money wasn’t as scarce,” he said, Hunter played a key role in developing the district’s infrastructure. Since that time, discussions have shifted more toward green initiatives, on which councillors tend to share similar views, due largely in part to staff work prior to items arriving at council, he explained.
“There usually isn’t a lot of difference between something that’s good that has come forward and something that can be made a little better,” Hunter said.
At 67, and with a daughter in Grade 1, Hunter has decided to return to his roots in education in hopes of repairing a failing system, as a board of education trustee in the Saanich School District.
“(In) stereotypical politics, sometimes people start at school board, run for council and then for mayor,” Leonard said. “Wayne’s gone from mayor to council to school trustee, and it’s because of his love of education and children.”
Hunter, a self-professed big-picture guy, isn’t into laying blame about who has contributed to the cracks in the school system he’s so eager to rejoin. Likewise, Hunter’s outlook on his time in council chambers is just as positive.
“I can come out of the box and make some very blunt statements when I need to, but I see Saanich as such a well-balanced municipality and basically it’s a matter of tweaking the issues and not making gigantic changes,” Hunter said. “I think it would be wrong for people to present the opinion to the world that the sky is falling in Saanich because Saanich has more than most municipalities in British Columbia. We are very fortunate to have a municipality like Saanich to live in.”