After 19 years in municipal politics, Mission councillor Jenny Stevens has announced she is not running in the upcoming election.
“My personal rulebook says don’t take on a commitment you can’t see through,” she said.
Stevens noted she turns 82 a couple weeks after the October election and doesn’t feel she can commit another four years at the same level.
Before the 2014 election, she underwent a battery of health checks before committing to the term.
Although a political veteran, Stevens doesn’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 meets with constituents either over the phone, email or a cup of tea.
Her philosophy is to represent the people in order to safeguard their interests. Calling herself a professional meddler, she has 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. “I represent everyone, not just the people who speak up. I’m a voice.”
Over her six terms on council, Stevens has experienced many ups and downs. One accomplishment she is proud of is 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 is also pleased with the development of the hall of fame for intellectual and artistic merit, set to launch later this year.
“We’ve always had a sports hall of fame but what about all of the other talented individuals in Mission?” she said. “I’m pleased to see the art side coming up and being recognized.”
Another initiative Stevens hopes moves forward before her term is up is the planned seniors centre with affordable rental apartments above.
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 but she has never had an elaborate campaign strategy.
In 1999, she bought a set of signs reading “Elect Jenny Stevens” and in 2002 adjusted them to “Re-Elect Jenny Stevens.” In the last election she continued using her signs even though she was down to nine.
“I don’t think about it like it’s chasing the electorate – it’s do the job. I don’t know how I keep getting elected with a $300 budget.”
Her approach to voting is looking at issues and asking if they will benefit or harm the majority of Mission residents. She looks at the entire issue and the side issues, not just the immediate one on the table.
Stevens is often asked how, as a blind woman, she deals with the huge amount of paperwork council work requires.
Most of her work is done over the phone or on the computer and Stevens’ computer is equipped with a screen reader. This assistive technology allows her to read, create documents using a word processor and write emails.
“What’s needed is vision, not sight,” she said.
After her term ends, Stevens plans to spend time with her children and grandchildren, teach speech craft to the marginalized and finish the book she has been writing for 30 years.
She also has several municipal items she’d like to see happen, like getting a town square downtown, adding jobs to keep up with Missions’ residential growth and finding constructive solutions to homelessness.
“I’m not going to stop meddling,” she said. “I’ll still going to meddle, but not officially on council.”
Stevens enjoys planting ideas in capable minds and watching them make the project their own. As a naturally quiet person who avoids crowds, she has a fondness for other quiet people and is passionate about helping them find their voice to make positive change.
“If you don’t like it, change it. The easiest thing in the world is to grumble.”