Flags across City of Mission facilities have been lowered to pay tribute to Jenny Stevens, one of the longest-serving councillors in the city’s history, after news broke that she had died.
Stevens served six terms on council.
“It was my pleasure to sit on council with Jenny for six years, and to work with her at many community tables,” said Mayor Paul Horn, in a statement. “There have been very few people in the history of this community more dedicated to it. She was utterly fearless when it came to speaking up for the people of Mission.
“When our emergency ward was threatened with closure, she was a loud voice for ensuring that Mission Memorial Hospital continued to evolve with Mission’s needs. Her advocacy helped us to build The Residences in Mission and our Community Health Centre. From our libraries to our transit system, from heritage programs to community accessibility, Jenny Stevens left a lasting legacy for all of us here in Mission.”
Stevens, who was blind, first earned her spot on council in 1999 and served until 2018. She was described by her fellow councillors at the time as courageous, thoughtful, determined, tenacious, passionate, and resilient.
In a 2018 interview with the Record about her career, she said that, despite being a political veteran, she didn’t look at herself as a politician but rather as a board member representing community work and the community.
“The work I enjoy the most is helping individuals find a solution to their problem,” she said.
Stevens was known for meeting with constituents either over the phone, email – or a cup of tea.
Her philosophy was to represent the people in order to safeguard their interests. Calling herself a professional meddler, she said that she had noticed over her years on council that although the squeaky wheel gets the funds, there are a lot more silent people whose needs should be represented as well.
“I’ve put motions on the table for people even if I don’t agree with them,” Stevens said in 2018. “I represent everyone, not just the people who speak up. I’m a voice.”
Over her six terms on council, Stevens experienced many ups and downs. One accomplishment she said she was proud of was her part in the rejection of the 2011 P3 water agreement, which was a $290-million plan to draw water from Stave Lake funded by a private company.
After looking deeper into the situation, Stevens wasn’t convinced the water need was as urgent as it appeared and she wasn’t comfortable with the deal since it meant control over Mission’s water would be in federal hands. She kept the dialogue going and helped develop an alternative comprehensive water and sewer plan, which will last 20 years.
Stevens ran against current Mission Mayor Randy Hawes in 2005 in the provincial election, losing by 199 votes.
“I did it on a dare,” she said. “But I’m glad I didn’t get it. I learned I’m not the party member type.”
Twice in her municipal career Steven topped the polls.
Stevens said she was often asked how, as a blind woman, she dealt with the huge amount of paperwork council work requires.
Most of her work was done over the phone or on the computer and Stevens’ computer was equipped with a screen reader. This assistive technology allowed her to read, create documents using a word processor and write emails.
“What’s needed is vision, not sight,” she said.
“If you don’t like it, change it. The easiest thing in the world is to grumble.”
– With files from Record staff