Jack Talstra, Terrace’s former mayor of 23 years, left us on Sinterklaass, Dec. 5, a Dutch family holiday celebrating Saint Nicholas, “the good saint”.
Jack gave us the gift of himself, and he definitely was one of Northwest BC’s good saints.
In the days after Terrace’s 2008 municipal elections, when I asked Jack if he would be interested in being on the board of the Skeena Nass Centre for Innovation in Resource Economics (SNCIRE), he said that since he wasn’t mayor anymore, Hilda, his wife, had told him it was time to “do nothing” for a while.
Plus, times were still tough, and he had things to attend to at his law firm.
But … he still signed on, and Jack was on the board of SNCIRE from its inception in 2009. He was chair until just last year, and he stayed on, even through his illness.
Jack did this because, regardless of whether he was in the mayor’s chair, simply a citizen, the chair of a non-profit, or a business owner, he believed in the people of Terrace, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Thornhill, and the entire northwest.
He believed that we deserved to have a real say in our destiny, and to be active participants in shaping our future.
Jack knew that we needed economic activity to support the services and facilities we need, and the arts and culture we deserve. He believed that our natural resources, especially our forests, were key to that future.
He often said what we needed was more research and innovation in the Northwest. He believed that working together, as a region, we were stronger.
Someone once told me that Jack was incredibly shy but he still did what he did because he believed the community of Terrace and the entire Northwest needed a voice – and he was willing to help.
He was a champion for us all, though he would never have used that word.
Jack was a friend, but I still didn’t get to know him half as well as I would have liked – and I’ll bet that many people feel the same way. I know he was quietly proud of his family. He was a strategic thinker.
He believed everyone had a right to speak, and was always genuinely interested in what they had to say.
And I know this: he believed in the strength and potential of the people of northwest B.C. And because of his belief, so do many other people. And so do I.
Thank you, Jack.
SNCIRE Executive Director,
– – – – – – –
Terrace and the Northwest lost a powerhouse of a leader when Jack Talstra passed away. He wasn’t a flamboyant leader and he never sought out the spotlight, but he was pragmatic, visionary, diplomatic and heartfelt in his desire to truly give back to his community. Perhaps that’s why he was Terrace’s longest serving mayor. In municipal politics, party lines are blurred and I believe people vote for the person. Jack always believed that Terrace’s fiscal house should remain in order and he kept council on track during years of economic downturn to ensure Terrace didn’t overextend itself with loans and expenditures that would put the city in a tough(er) financial situation.
As a reporter at The Terrace Standard I had to work with Jack through some tough stories. I remember chasing him down on a Saturday, minutes before deadline and finally having the conversation that would lead to breaking the story about the City purchasing the former Co-op property. I recall weekly conversations in the wake of the failed bid by the Terrace Lumber Company to revive the sawmill at the heart of our community. These weren’t always easy conversations because they touched a nerve with so many people, but Jack never offered up an answer that wasn’t carefully thought out and considered.
Jack was truly a statesmen. He reached out to people across jurisdictions, encouraged meaningful partnerships and relationships with neighbouring communities such as Kitselas and Kitsumkalum and doggedly positioned Terrace to develop itself as a service centre in the wake of the demise of the forestry industry. His sound governance and ability to rally his team for the betterment of Terrace is a legacy that will last for years.
His approach to leadership was much like how he raised his family: be fiscally responsible, save for the tough times, make smart decisions for the future and do what is right for your neighbours and love each other greatly. He raised his family to care about social justice, to give back to the communities they live in and treat others as they would want to be treated. Another legacy he leaves.
My one-time colleague at the Standard, Jeff Nagel already alluded to it, and anyone (reporter or not) that had the opportunity to speak with him regularly would know that he always signed of with two words: Be good. Words, truly, to live by.
Sarah Zimmerman, Terrace, B.C.
It is very difficult for me to capture in a few phrases or words the legacy of Jack Talstra for the city of Terrace and more importantly the region. Jack was many things but at his core he was all about Terrace and the northwest. Few people that did know Jack and those that are only just getting to know his name will realize the commitment he had to improving the quality of life for every person who called Terrace their home.
He was the Mayor of Terrace during one of, if not the longest period, of economic downturn for the entire region. The collapse of SCI in 1997 began a decade of economic turmoil for the region that truly was unprecedented. Yet during that time Terrace thru Jack’s determination, leadership, vision and most importantly statesmanship Terrace survived and has emerged as the economic leader for the region.
He knew the importance of building stronger partnerships with your neighbouring communities aboriginal and non-aboriginal and in many way set the provincial standard for those kinds of relationships, especially with the neighbouring first nation communities. He understood how to walk through the minefield provincial and federal politics and come out unscathed and the community a little better off for the effort every time.
As MLA and a Minister I had an opportunity to work with and for Jack, witnessing on a regular basis the passion he displayed in advancing the northwest on the provincial stage.
For me I have lost a friend, someone who as I reflect, wish I had taken the time to spend more time with. He may have been Jack to many but for me he has always been “Mayor” and always will be.
Roger Harris, Terrace, B.C.
Roger Harris was a member of the B.C. Liberal provincial government from 2001 to 2005.