Last night Terrace’s longest ever serving mayor Jack Talstra was given the status of Freeman of the City.
Only three other Terrace residents have received the symbolic key to the city since it officially became a municipality in 1969, and with his now in hand, Talstra joins Bill McRae, Vesta Douglas and Emil Haugland as bearer of that rare title.
Current Terrace mayor Dave Pernarowski, who was overseeing his final city council meeting last night, presented the key to Talstra’s wife, Hilda, because Jack’s poor health prevented him from attending.
“The Freeman of the City is an honour bestowed by a municipality upon a valued member of the community,” said Pernarowski. “It comes from the medieval practice of granting respected citizens freedom from serfdom.”
Today the privilege is largely symbolic, though one concrete gesture granted to a freeman is that they are placed first on the voters list.
Of Dutch family origin, Talstra was born in 1946 and served as mayor for 23 years from 1985 to 2008. He also served as alderman from 1976 to 1981.
His family ran a farm in the Horseshoe area when they moved to Terrace in 1953 after living previously in Telkwa and Houston.
In 1976 Jack established his own law firm in Terrace, Talstra and Co.
Pernarowski spoke of Talstra’s “unparalleled ability to liaise with political figures from all areas both provincially and federally,” and called Talstra’s more than two decades long stint as mayor “impressive indeed.”
Former city chief administrative officer Ron Poole spoke of the imagination and energy of the former mayor.
Talstra’s son Daniel spoke as well, along with daughter Amanda.
Daniel described city leadership as a V of birds where the leaders go to the front and then are protected by other leaders who take their place at the tip of the V as time advances.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this story said that a Freeman of the City is allowed to vote even if they don’t have a residence in the city anymore, however this tradition cannot be confirmed.