Mike Hicks, the straight-shooting de facto mayor of the Capital Regional District’s sprawling Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, has announced he won’t be seeking re-election.
Hicks helped to bring order to development of the rural wilds of the electoral area, which covers about 1,500 square kilometres from Otter Point to Port Renfrew and includes the far-apart communities of East Sooke, Malahat and Willis Point.
Over his tenure since 2008, Hicks brought in Official Community Plans and growth strategies for every area in the Juan de Fuca District, negotiated key parkland acquisitions and, hammer in hand, helped to build the area’s new office building at Otter Point.
Hicks has the ear and friendship of Premier John Horgan, who is also MLA for much of Hicks’ territory, and is famous for his staunch defence of all things rural and being the lone political voice at the CRD board table for more than 4,500 residents.
Hicks, 70, said Tuesday he’s not running in the October 2022 election, and wanted to announce early so others have time to consider running.
“A friend of mine took out a ruler and said the average person lives to about 80 — the end of the ruler … ‘You’re here, see how much is left in your life?’ ” Hicks said in an interview. “I’ve enjoyed this for 14 years. It’s a big, big job. These are responsibilities you don’t take lightly … but it’s certainly something that’s been rewarding.”
Hicks said unlike most CRD directors who are mayors and councillors, he’s the sole representative for a large rural area that includes five volunteer fire departments, several First Nations, including Port Renfrew’s Pacheedaht, and several of the CRD’s largest parks. “The buck stops with you because you are the council,” he said.
Hick said his council is on the street, in driveways and in the bush, around kitchen tables or on his cellphone, where he’s almost always reachable.
He lists among his greatest accomplishments the CRD’s acquisition as parkland of Sandcut Beach and the 20 acres around the Sooke River known as Pemberton Pool for salmon brood stock. And there are “so many other smaller victories,” he says, citing everything from some of the lowest tax rates in the region to this week’s paving of the tennis courts in Port Renfrew.
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, who worked with Hicks on the CRD and the Sooke Parks board, said Hicks has been a driving force for his electoral area and the community of Sooke, particularly his support of youth sports by championing the golf course, baseball, lacrosse box and turf fields.
“He’s approachable, community-minded and such a solid colleague,”said Tait. “He is direct … when he’s advocating for something, he lays it out clearly.”
Hicks and his wife, Kathy, will continue to operate their Arbutus Cove waterfront bed and breakfast and cabins on the Sooke Basin, where he’s “the laundry guy … it’s my form of yoga.” And he says he will continue to drive the “goose-sh*t picker” for Sooke parks.
He was delighted recently when a public health nurse administering his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine recognized him — not for being a politician, but as the guy who drives the goose-poop collector.
Hicks points out he doesn’t have a university degree or the prestigious education of some of his CRD colleagues, but he can wrestle with the best of them at the CRD board table.
He got a diploma in hotel management at BCIT, spent time logging to “get a grubstake,” bought a big fishing boat and then managed fishing resorts, the first in Hakai Pass in 1979. He went on to build and manage fishing lodges in Sointula, Knight Inlet, Bamfield, Sooke and Port Renfrew.
(For the record, the biggest salmon he ever caught was 48 pounds — it hangs on his home office wall — and the biggest “guided” salmon was 66 pounds.)
Hicks twice ran unsuccessfully for the federal Progressive Conservatives under the Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell governments, but “got smoked both times” by the NDP’s Skelly brothers — Ray and Bob.
“It’s just time to go, and do something else,” Hicks said. “My wife wants to see it in print, so it’s real.”