After 15 years on Cumberland council, Mayor Fred Bates announced Thursday he will not run for office in the November municipal election.
Bates has been mayor for nine years in the village of 3,000-plus people, prior to which he served two terms on council. He also spent two years as regional district chair.
Born in Cumberland in 1944, Bates left his hometown in 1969 to pursue a career in emergency medical services before returning in the early-’90s. He worked as a first aid attendant at logging camps, then became an ambulance attendant in Vancouver before going into management with the ambulance service.
During his time in office, Bates has helped establish new boundaries for the village. Perhaps the biggest highlight has been attracting and zoning for major developments such as Trilogy and Coal Valley.
“I guess making Cumberland open for business, that would be what I consider the biggest single advantage,” Bates said.
He notes connections with local MLAs and MPs have levered a strong position to obtain grants “that we never had before.
“And personally, I think the connection with China, Taiwan and Japan will serve Cumberland well in our future,” said Bates, whose political experiences have been largely positive.
“There’s challenges, but for the most part I still believe that Cumberland and particularly Comox Valley has a great, bright future, but I think they absolutely have to focus on working together. I’m not of a parochial mind that we all go off in our own directions. Some may call that faithful to your community, having it stand alone, I call that a bad option.”
He feels “co-operation is absolutely essential” in terms of provision of services.
“We can do that without amalgamation,” Bates said.
Coun. Bronco Moncrief, who served several terms as mayor before Bates, had kind words for his council colleague.
“He’s topnotch in my book,” said Moncrief, who was tempted to fill his place but has decided to step away from the political arena after 39 years. “I think he’s a fantastic leader.”
Moncrief describes Bates as a “diplomatic person” whose interest in Cumberland mirrored his own.
He notes the frustrations associated with issues such as the regional hospital proposed at North Island College.
“When they (other Cumberland council members) kicked him off the regional (district) board, I think it was the biggest blow to Cumberland that I’ve ever seen,” Moncrief said.
Bates intends to spend more time with family and following other paths of opportunity. Cumberland’s sister city in Putian, China, has invited him for a few months to assist with its ambulance service.