George Seymour, a long-time North Cowichan resident, public servant, and former member of council, died on Monday, April 11, and flags are flying at half mast at the municipality in his honour.
“George was a true community leader and quintessential public servant,” said North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring.
“I can recall being very impressed and, honestly, somewhat intimidated by him when I was first elected in 2008, but he was a gracious colleague, always willing to mentor the new councillors, and provide both procedural and practical advice. His policy positions were both principled and pragmatic, always taking into account both his personal values and the broader good of the community.”
In recognition of his long and faithful public service and significant contributions to North Cowichan, Seymour was honoured as a Freeman of the Municipality in 2015.
Seymour was elected to North Cowichan council in 1996 and served for 15 years, and nine years on the board of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
He was the long-time chair of the municipality’s technical planning committee and participant in the advisory planning committee.
Seymour was a key player in North Cowichan’s 2002 official community plan, as well as the OCP that was adopted in 2011.
He was a strong supporter of agriculture in the valley, an advocate for the Cowichan Theatre, and instrumental in bringing the Cowichan branch of the Vancouver Regional Library to the Cowichan Community Centre property.
Seymour also had the foresight to convince the CVRD’s board to plan financially for the new Cowichan District Hospital by implementing a reserve fund policy which helped facilitate the purchase of the property for the new hospital, and continues to be used today as the hospital capital expenditure plan is developed.
Jon Lefebure, a former mayor of North Cowichan, said Seymour was his mentor and role model in local politics.
Lefebure said before he entered politics, he met Seymour when Seymour went to his property to discuss some plans he had to develop it.
“We talked about the property, but then we spent two hours talking about municipal politics, and then I joined a committee to update North Cowichan’s official community plan in 2003,” he said.
“George brought me on board and got me interested in local government. He had a history as a diplomat, and educator and an intellectual and brought an approach of measured concern to development in the municipality. He was a voice of moderation and reason who really cared for people and the environment. He was a fantastic role model.”
Glen Ridgway, a former North Cowichan councillor, said Seymour was a gentleman and good guy who served the people in the municipality and the region well.
“George was largely responsible for updating the official community plan in 2002 and the one after that, and that played a big role in the planning that’s in place now in North Cowichan,” he said.
“He came to us from a long career in the federal government that he put to good use locally. He was very active in the process to bring the branch of the [Vancouver Regional Library] to the Cowichan Community Centre and that was greatly appreciated.”
Seymour spent his career in the Canadian Foreign Service, representing Canada in Vietnam, The Hague, Sri Lanka, Washington D.C., Singapore, and Malaysia.
He acted on Canada’s behalf in challenging and high-profile situations, including as High Commissioner during his Singapore and Malaysia postings.
When Seymour retired from the federal government, he moved home to the Cowichan Valley and got involved in the community and land-use policies.
In 1997, he and his wife joined other local residents to save a historic property full of Garry oak trees, which has evolved into the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, now managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Seymour is survived by his wife Mrs. Marie-Claire Seymour.