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Langley Township’s final council meeting before vote ends with emotional speech from mayor

Mayor Jack Froese reflected on 11 years as he steps down from role
Langley Township council had cake on July 25 after their final meeting before the 2022 municipal election, set for Oct. 15. (Shirley Sawatsky/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

The final Langley Township council meeting of July will also be the final council meeting until after a new mayor and council are chosen by the voters on Oct. 15.

Back in May, the council adopted a motion that would eliminate the remaining scheduled meeting before the election, set for September.

Put forward by Councillor Eric Woodward, who is one of two current councillors running for mayor, the motion noted that the official nomination period for candidates takes place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9.

The last scheduled council meeting was for Sept. 19, 10 days after the end of the nomination period.

Woodward’s motion said that holding a council meeting during the nomination or campaign period “could be seen to be contrary to established principles of good governance.”

A majority of council agreed. Councillors Petrina Arnason, Bob Long, and Woodward’s future rival for the mayoral seat, Blair Whitmarsh, were opposed to the motion.

Barring a need for an emergency or special meeting in the next few months, the July 25 meeting will be the last for Mayor Jack Froese, who announced several months ago that he will be stepping down.

Council members had kind words for Froese, who has served for three terms and 11 years as mayor. Froese became emotional during some of the councillors’ statements.

“We work hard for the betterment of our residents,” Froese said at the conclusion of the meeting.

He spoke of running into George Ferguson, who was a longtime mayor of Abbotsford, back in 2011 when Froese was first running for mayor.

“He told me, ‘Your boss are the residents, don’t ever forget that.’ And I never have,” Froese said.

He thanked staff, from senior department leaders and union leadership to the employees who work with the public and keep the Township’s infrastructure running.

He also spoke of current and past councillors, including the late Grant Ward, who have served on councils. He noted that they haven’t always agreed, but that’s okay.

“Debate is the core of a true democracy.”

He also said that a religious leader told him it was okay to review his own views, early in his time as mayor.

“That advice has stood me in good stead,” Froese said. “We can look back and say, ‘Maybe I was wrong.’”

The mayor became emotional when speaking of his family, including his children, their partners, his grandchildren, and his late wife, Debbie Froese, who died of cancer in January, 2020.

“I started this term with my wife Deb,” Froese said. “She kept me grounded, and reminded me of why we are committed to service.”

READ ALSO: Hundreds attend celebration of life for Debbie Froese in Langley

Although there is normally an August break with no council meetings, the new change will mean a longer than usual gap in seeing council gather.

There was controversy, and even an attempted court action, over council meetings and votes that took place in the lead up to the 2018 election campaign.

As the Township council is constantly dealing with development proposals, a number of votes on rezonings and development projects were held during the run-up to the 2018 municipal elections.

A series of 19 decisions were targetted by a group of 10 local voters, who petitioned the court to remove Mayor Jack Froese, Whitmarsh, and Long from office, because of a claimed conflict of interest because of campaign contributions from developers.

The court challenge was filed in 2019, but in January 2021, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found that none of the council members had any direct or indirect financial interest in the developments. The petition was dismissed.

READ ALSO: Mayor pushes back against ‘smear campaign’ after court win for Langley Township

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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