Jon Harris, a four-term Maple Ridge councillor, was a mentor in the tough life of politics to former mayor Ernie Daykin.
Harris helped Daykin, first as a councillor, navigate council meetings and was a friend of his for more than 30 years.
“He was a great guy, one of a kind,” Daykin said Tuesday.
Harris passed away Saturday. He was 78.
“He was struggling with his health,” said Daykin, although he didn’t know the cause of death.
Daykin remembers his mentor telling him that, as a councillor, he should show up to meetings prepared and ready to discuss agenda items, and to even visit the sites of development applications beforehand.
He also told Daykin that he didn’t have to comment on every topic.
Harris served on council from 1991-1993 and 1994-1996, then again from 2000-2002 and 2003-2005. He also ran for the Progressive Conservative party in the Dewdney-Alouette riding in 1997, losing to Reform party candidate Grant McNally.
Harris was a notary at Harris and Leib Insurance on Lougheed Highway in the downtown for more than two decades.
Daykin said he and Harris both served on the city’s Smart Growth on the Ground committee in 2004 that led to the pedestrian-friendly and environmentally conscious Maple Ridge downtown area plan that’s in place today.
Both he and Harris felt that the downtown was great place worth investing in, Daykin added.
Harris also believed that local politics was “the area where you could have the most impact on people [in their] day-to-day lives. You’re down in the trenches,” Daykin said.
Harris also served in the air force and was once a volunteer firefighter.
His son Quentin Harris cited a media comment once stating that Jon Harris was the greatest mayor that Maple Ridge never had.
Quentin was a First Nations child and adopted from the Neskonlith Band in 1972 by Jon and Joanne, at a time when mixed race families weren’t as common. The couple didn’t care about race, Quentin said.
“In those days, in the 1970s, for a white man to fully embrace a non-white child … that would not be acceptable. Why would you do that?” Quentin asked.
“But he didn’t see that. He was so happy to have a child, so happy to have me. I couldn’t have asked for a better father.
“He was the greatest father and the greatest friend I could have asked for,” Quentin said.
While Quentin was moving towards a career in art and teaching, his dad would jokingly try to cajole him into a career in real estate or as a notary public, admitting that wasn’t the most exciting.
Daykin spoke by phone to Harris just last week. He’d recently invited Daykin and his wife on a boat trip.
“He loved boating,” said Daykin.
Daykin also agreed with Harris about Maple Ridge being a great place to raise a family and run a business, noting that it’s an hour trip into downtown Vancouver and a half-hour drive to get into the wilderness in Golden Ears Provincial Park.
They were from opposite sides of the political spectrum, but able to put aside their differences for the good of the community, Daykin said.