As promised faithful readers, welcome to Tyson’s Thoughts on the legacy of Hank Bood as a politician on the North Island.
Now before I dig in to the meat and potatoes of this piece, I want to preface this by saying I hold no ill will or grudges against Hank, nor do I have any ulterior motives for writing this other than I think it’s fitting to give him a proper send off after his many years of service to the community.
Hank and I have always gotten along fairly well, sure there have been a few hiccups here and there (I constantly get asked about my infamous “Why no hard questions, Hank?” column all the time), but I think it’s mainly due to us being a lot alike rather than opposing each other. Neither of us likes to back down, and we are fiercely loyal to this town we call home.
So with that out of the way, what exactly is Hank Bood’s legacy? Well, before I dive in to that, let’s take a trip back in history to his humble beginnings before he ever stepped foot inside Port Hardy.
Hank (full name Hendrick) was born in Saskatchewan in 1952 to dutch parents who emigrated to Canada from Holland. When he was around two-years-old, his family moved to the Comox Valley where he grew up as the third eldest of six children. Hank met his late wife Colleen in high school and married her in 1973.
They moved to Port Hardy shortly afterwards, looking to start up a family business. Any longtime locals remember Bood’s Bootery? Obviously you do if you have lived here for awhile.
When I was a kid, Bood’s Bootery was really the only quality place to get shoes. In fact, I saved up my allowance for a month or so ($20 a week for those wondering), and bought my first pair of sneakers from Hank. He even measured my feet with an old metal foot measuring device to make sure I was buying the right size.
Anyways, enough about my feet, let’s jump into what we are all here for – politics.
Hank’s first taste of public service was joining the fire department in the mid 1970’s. He explained at the fire department’s 50th anniversary ball that he was “drafted” in by the fire chief at the time because his business was so close to the fire hall (where the Women’s Auxiliary building is today).
Hank spent 10 years as a dedicated firefighter, something he still likes to joke about today (he told a funny story at the ball about his time on the department, if you see him around town make sure you ask him about the fire he did or didn’t cause).
Bood also volunteered his time as a member of the District of Port Hardy’s Advisory Planning Committee, making recommendations to council on land use planning and zoning issues.
What does that mean exactly? Well, basically, it means he had a hand in plotting out areas of land for usage, essentially shaping the way the town would grow and change over the years.
Skipping ahead to 1999, Hank was elected as one of six rookie councillors, and according to his bio on Port Hardy’s website, he was at the forefront of “trimming the district’s budget, as Port Hardy had just lost its major employer and tax base.”
While I was born and raised in Port Hardy, I was just a 13-year-old kid when Hank took office in 1999, so I don’t have many memories of municipal politics at that time.
The only thing I remember about council from that time frame was when Stephen Ralph and his friends requested council help build a skatepark to replace the wooden one behind Port Hardy Secondary School that was condemned and torn down.
For reasons that I still don’t understand today, council refused to put any money into building a skatepark, forcing the group of kids to fundraise the entire park by themselves. Luckily, the rotary club stepped up to the plate with a big $20,000 donation to pay for the Kyle Scow Memorial Skatepark’s cement pad that still exists to this day.
In an interview with Hank last year, he stated he thought the district did in fact “contribute some money to the project, maybe through staff hours and things like that. I actually would just about bet you we put some other money in to it, too. When it comes down to it, that’s what towns do, we provide services and we choose which services to provide.”
Was Hank wrong when he said this to me or was his memory just a little hazy around the subject due to it happening over a decade prior?
I like to think he was being truthful and he couldn’t remember the facts correctly, but I’ll let you decide on that.
Hank took a break from politics for a few years, but would go on to declare his intention to run as mayor in 2005, ultimately being elected in November.
I moved away from Port Hardy in 2003 to go to university in Nanaimo, so I was not a resident during Hank’s first tenure as mayor. According to his bio, Hank’s experience as a councillor and director on the regional district and regional hospital boards “taught him the importance of working collaboratively with municipal staff and together they celebrated many achievements.”
Maybe someone who lived here during that time would like to write in with a letter to the editor talking about things Hank accomplished (or didn’t accomplish) during his first term as mayor.
Hank was in office from 2005-2008, after which he left to take “time off to focus on the needs of his family” (Port Hardy website).
Politically, Hank wasn’t done yet, though. He was once again elected mayor in 2014 (defeating Janet Dorward) and served up until 2018 when Councillor Dennis Dugas ended up defeating him by 806 votes to 320, about 70.3 per cent of the vote.
I started at The North Island Gazette in 2015, so I’ve been covering local politics here for the majority of Hank’s last run in office.
Looking back over this term, here are some highlights that I found interesting:
In January of 2015, Hank and his council voted unanimously to honour late Port Hardy Mayor Bev Parnham, who took a leading role in battling for health-care services in the district, by attaching her name to the street leading to the hospital and new health clinic.
– Classy move, Hank. Nice touch.
In March of 2015, “We’re going to be working hard on our First Nations relations,” and “our parks and recreation services,” said Hank at the district’s regular council meeting. The district formed a First Nations Relations Committee, which was originally chaired by former Councillor Jessie Hemphill.
– I’m not sure how effective the committee has been over the years, but it was definitely a step in the right direction towards working together with First Nations rather than separately.
In March of 2015, the Port Hardy Primary Health Care Centre officially opened. Hank said at the time that “Health care isn’t really the primary function of the municipal government, but it is a primary issue with the people of Port Hardy so we always have a stake there … This was a poster child for former mayor Bev Parnham she did a lot of work in actually getting it here. We’ve been waiting a long time.”
– Another nice tribute to Bev, Hank. Well put.
In February of 2016, Hank and his council approved submitting an application for a grant from Heritage Canada’s Canada 150 program to help create First Nations murals in town. The murals were to celebrate and educate residents about the past, and honour the history of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. Bood said at the time he had had some very productive meetings with Kwakiutl Nation Chief Leslie Dickie and Hereditary Chief George Hunt and there is a sense that “we need to move ahead together” and that there are “so many opportunities for the North Island working together.”
– Bood was really pushing the theme of working together with First Nations in 2016. Cool to see.
In May of 2016, architects dove into the first of the Multi-plex (pool) stakeholder engagement sessions. “Our town finances are really pretty good at the moment,” said Hank. “Over the last 10 years our (debenture) payments have been in the neighbourhood of $500,000 to $800,000 a year. In 2017, that payment goes down to about $50,000. We can do this project. I have no doubt about it.” Hank believed the $20 million plan should be presented to citizens and “whittle it down to what we can afford through public opinion … People are ready for something new and shiny.”
– Ah, the start of the multiplex project. You can tell this has been Hank’s “baby” for quite some time.
In October of 2016, Hank requested weighted voting be brought back to the RDMW board meetings because there had been some arguments lately at the meetings (regarding the multiplex) that the group was struggling to solve.
– This one never really made sense to me personally. Why the need for weighted voting, Hank? Were you upset about how a specific vote went? Anyone want to help shine some light on this one?
In October of 2016, Hank was on hand with district staff for the unveiling of the architectural designs for the proposed multiplex. He noted the District put on the open house “to educate the people of Port Hardy on what we’ve done, how much it’s gonna cost, and how much it’s gonna cost per house and per business. We wanted to be totally open with everything. We wanted the people of Port Hardy and the North Island to know what we’re doing and we’re very proud of what we’ve done here … I think it’s gonna be such a huge signal to the North Island and to the people of Port Hardy that we’re going forward and that we’ve got a future here in Port Hardy. I absolutely believe we need a facility like this here. We can’t let a place the size of Port Hardy not have a swimming pool.”
– Once again, Hank takes the time to promote his “baby”. This was my personal favourite moment where Hank stood tall in office and let his voice be heard.
In May of 2017, Hank shot down a report by Sean Mercer regarding the purchase of a tsunami warning system, stating he didn’t think an actual tsunami had much likelihood of hitting Port Hardy due to the shape of the island. “We need to be careful with what we’re going to be spending money on in the future — we’re going to have to take a real good look at this, as it might not be money well spent from a practical point of view.”
– Turns out there was a tsunami warning in Port Hardy on January 23, 2018, but luckily it turned out to be a false alarm.
In June of 2017, Hank helped form the first ever cannabis committee on the North Island, essentially setting strong precedents for the rest of the communities to follow with regards to municipal rules once recreational cannabis was legalized.
– Hank always had good business sense, he was aware of the economic activity involved with cannabis well before most other people.
In June of 2017, Hank thanked former Fire Chief Schell Nickerson for his 26 years of service to the community. Nickerson had quietly stepped down from the position, with no reasons seemingly given for his retirement. Hank would make his opinions known on the subject in May of 2018 though, thanking Fire Chief Brent Borg for making the service “reliable” again. “Not too long ago we were in danger of having basically no service for either part of town, and you have turned that around in a big way — mayor and council are comfortable with the way you and your cohorts have changed the situation from where we didn’t have a reliable fire service at all, and I think we owe you a lot for what you’ve done.”
– Very strange as to why Schell stepped down, still to this day no one will talk about why he quit.
In September of 2017, Hank’s son Jeff captured the coveted low gross score at the Seven Hills Golf and Country Club’s Men’s Open tournament. It took Jeff 21 years to win the tournament, and he cited his dad as his biggest competition. “Mentally he’s always been a bit of challenge for me,” laughed Jeff.
– This was probably the most proud I’ve ever seen Hank, with a close second being when the RDMW finally agreed to give Port Hardy 50k a year for the multiplex project.
In November of 2017, Hank helped push through a brand new roof for the Fort Rupert Curling Club building, which ended up costing the district an estimated final total of $260,000. It would have cost $560,000 to demolish the building.
– I personally never understood why they didn’t just tear it down and add a curling rink to the multiplex plans (also of note, Hank is a longtime member of the curling club).
In February of 2018, in what was a touching ceremony, Hank presented his longtime friend and political colleague, Councillor John Tidbury, with a key to the city.
– Bood failed to hold back tears during the presentation and it was quite possibly the most emotion I have seen out of him in the three years I’ve been covering news around Port Hardy.
In August of 2018, Bood voted in favour of a wage increase for Port Hardy mayor and council, which was passed by council later on in October at a meeting he was absent for.
– This motion gives Dennis Dugas and his incoming councillors a little pay raise in 2019 to look forward to.
Okay, that’s enough history, let’s sum this up and call it a day, shall we?
My thoughts on Hank’s legacy are fairly simple. His dedication to public service on the North Island since the 1970’s has clearly helped shape the growth of Port Hardy over the years into what it is now, and he should be commended for the time and effort he has put in. Hank has sacrificed a lot over the years to serve as a politician, and regardless of whether or not you agree with all of his decisions, he deserves respect for that alone.
I’ve been trying to think of ways the district could memorialize the man he is and what he’s done for the community, and my dad’s suggestion of naming the multiplex after him is still the best idea I can think of.
“The Hank Bood Aquatic Centre” or “The Hank Bood Multiplex” both sound great to me. He fought for it for so long that I think he’s due the commemoration.
What do you think, faithful readers? How will Hank Bood be remembered here in the North Island?