Jim Dias is the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner for 2016.
Dias is being honoured for “significant and lasting contributions to Cowichan during his time as chief administrative officer for the Municipality of North Cowichan, and for his volunteer work in the community,” said Chamber membership and event manager Elizabeth Croft.
His work saw Dias front and centre as many changes were made that affected large groups of Valley residents.
Dias was central to negotiations to acquire land for Chemainus Lake Park, the Cowichan Sportsplex, the site for a new Cowichan Secondary school and Vancouver Island University, and a home for minor baseball at Evans Field on Somenos Road.
He was also involved in negotiations to relocate the Cowichan Exhibition to Mays Road. He and his staff oversaw the construction of the new Aquatic Centre as well. But, far beyond work, he helped found the Cowichan Old Hustlers Hockey Association, coached kids’ sports, is a Rotarian, and a director of Providence Farm.
The Chamber says it’s proud to honour him.
“Jim worked with multiple parties to build, shape or improve many public facilities throughout North Cowichan,” Chamber president Julie Scurr commented on making the announcement last week. “As a result, thousands of people enjoy accessible, modern facilities every day. He’s been a longtime volunteer and leader in non-profit organizations and in sports. We’re delighted to present him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.”
The award will be formally presented at the 20th Black Tie Awards Banquet and Auction on Saturday, April 9 at Brentwood College School.
Lifetime Achievement Award recipients are selected by the chamber president in consultation with the board, and the previous year’s recipient, in this case Bill Keserich, who will introduce the winner this year.
Dias moved with his family to the Valley in 1961 and he graduated from Cowichan Secondary School in 1967, marrying his wife, Maureen in 1971.
The Diases have two sons: Ryan, who lives in Mill Bay and is the parks operations superintendent with the Cowichan Valley Regional District and Shawn, who lives in Morden, Manitoba where he is the parks manager for the City of Morden .
Dias’s own career at North Cowichan began in 1974 when he became purchasing clerk. His advancement was steady and in 1991 he became CAO, retiring in 2010 after 31 years with the municipality.
In 2011, North Cowichan council made him a Freeman of the Municipality for “playing a role in the shaping of North Cowichan”.
Dias himself says that for community projects to be successful, collaboration is required.
“You have to drill down and understand [everyone’s] interests. I believe I see the big picture and the consequences of actions. I strive to be more than a good listener, and actually hear what they are saying, and then integrate those things into the decision.”
Thinking back, he remembers the blizzard of 1996 as a major event.
“We had so much snow, we were phoning farmers — we knew they had tractors — and asking them to clear the snow. And that was how it worked.”
Dias himself spent much of the night transporting staff from home to work — few could get out of their driveways.
During the 2009 flood, Dias was one of the directors of the CVRD’s Emergency Operating Centre that ran 24 hours a day, coordinating all efforts to handle the emergency.
Along with his work for many local groups, Dias also consults for the Island Corridor Foundation and has helped them in a variety of ways.
When asked about his greatest passion, Dias says it’s simple.
“I have so many things that I really, really enjoy. I’ve got a beautiful family. My grandchildren are very, very special. I’m passionate about community — we live in a wonderful community of really caring and giving people.”
He’s a popular choice, Croft said.
“I’m getting that idea. We sent out the press release yesterday and I’m getting responses from so many folks saying it’s a great choice. The community are happy to see this and I’m glad to hear that. He is so community minded. I spent an hour or two with him to prepare [his biography] and he’s so consistent in understanding that this is a game where everybody does their bit and you always need to remember what other people are doing in your community. And in return you do your best for everyone. It seems like a simple concept but it’s really important to him. It’s all about the people.”