Rob Martin, Colwood's new mayor, open to the possibilities of growth

Rob Martin didn’t have much time to celebrate his win as Colwood mayor last weekend.

After shaking hands with Carol Hamilton, the person he defeated for the job, Martin rushed to Victoria General Hospital to be at his father-in-law’s side.

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At 7 p.m. Saturday, an hour before the polls closed, Martin found out that his wife Sheila’s 93-year-old father had had a stroke. Frank Gower died at 6 a.m. Sunday.

Martin wanted to celebrate the hard-fought battle that unseated Hamilton, a two-term incumbent who won the 2014 election in a landslide. But at the same time, his family was overcome with grief at losing Gower, a popular Oak Bay High School teacher and captain of Canada’s rugby team in the 1950s.

“It was really high and really low,” said Martin, 51.

On his Facebook page, Martin shared the sad news, along with a photo of Gower smiling, eyebrows raised and wearing a Martin for Mayor T-shirt.

Martin said he takes his strength from Sheila, who has been supportive since the day he decided to run for Colwood council in 2011.

“There’s no way I would have been able to handle this without her,” Martin said of his wife of 29 years.

For 21 of those years, they’ve lived in Colwood, in a bungalow near Esquimalt Lagoon.

“I hit a home run with my wife because she supports me every way possible,” said Martin, the baseball metaphor perhaps an ode to his weekend gig as umpire for Triangle Little League baseball.

The couple’s two kids, William, 26, and Ellie, 24, have moved out, but their golden retriever-Bernese mountain dog cross Edgar keeps them company.

The youngest of four siblings, Martin was born in Oshawa, Ont., but his father’s job in the Air Force saw the family move to Brampton, North Saanich and Calgary.

Martin’s first job was as a camp counsellor with the YMCA in Brampton at age 16. A passion for youth services led him into a double major in psychology and sociology at the University of Victoria. He got into a job with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria, where he worked as a club co-ordinator and supervisor until his 30s.

While youth care was his passion, Martin decided to move into medical sales, a field he thought would better provide for his young family. Seven years ago, Martin started Precise Surgical and Medical Supplies, which sells orthotics.

Martin’s foray into municipal politics started after he sued the City of Colwood in 2010. It was over a sewage line installed in his neighbourhood and a funding discrepancy that saw Martin paying more for sewage service than his neighbours. He settled with the city, but the issue inspired him to run for council in 2011.

Coun. Gordie Logan, who has served on council since 1999, said despite the legal battle, there was no awkwardness when Martin joined the council table.

“That might have been the impetus for him to run, but he gave the broader perspective when he got elected,” said Logan.

Martin was often the sole dissenting voice on many issues, which led to disagreements with other council members.

He was the lone councillor to vote against the official community plan in April, a decision Hamilton criticized during an interview before the election.

“He never elaborated on his position other than making a comment that the decision on the OCP should be left to a new council rather than the existing one, but this is a decision we’ve been working on for two years,” Hamilton said.

“Can you just throw all that work out and start over because you didn’t like the outcome?”

Logan said Martin sparked some interesting debates that never became personal.

“Even though Rob was at the losing end of the some of the votes, what he did was trigger some very good discussion and changed people’s viewpoints,” Logan said.

Martin campaigned on a promise to court businesses and commercial developers to spur growth in a community that lags behind Langford in terms of development.

“His big focus has been on business and the need to diversify the tax base, and I think that momentum will carry through as mayor,” Logan said.

“There’s been a bit of a bias among local developers against Colwood and maybe we haven’t done a good job at projecting our open-for-business attitude. I’m personally very excited about what our possibilities are over the next four years.”

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