This hasn’t been a good year for departures from the Langley scene.
Some departures, like that of Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender (who is still the mayor, as his resignation does not take effect until January), are temporary. Sadly, others are permanent.
The latest and one of the most poignant is that of Sandy Wakeling, who despite a short tenure in the role of Langley School District communications manager, did an extraordinary job. He died on July 27, aged 42.
I first met Sandy shortly after he took the job. He called me and asked if we could meet for coffee, as he wanted to introduce himself and talk a bit about school district communications.
I was favourably impressed from that first meeting. He was a consummate professional, yet at the same time just a great guy. I was sure that we would find him easy to work with, and I was absolutely right.
His arrival at the school district coincided with a change of attitude on the part of the board, which was referred to in a recent letter to the editor. Trustees were determined to be more visible in the broader community — not just the school community — and chair Wendy Johnson wanted to take every opportunity to engage with the public. That’s why she has taken part in town hall meetings with each of the mayors, MLA Mary Polak and MP Mark Warawa. At one of those meetings, held at Langley Events Centre, she took the bulk of the questions, as parents in Willoughby are very concerned that there are plans for enough school facilities as the community keeps growing.
Sandy’s hiring fit in with this new philosophy, but he was a real catch. He was up to date on modern ways to communicate and updated the ways the district communicates with parents. He was responsive to concerns. He was professional, and good-humoured.
And he was doing all this while fighting a rare type of intestinal cancer — something he never mentioned to me or anyone else here, because it didn’t affect his work and was thus irrelevant.
I understand that he continued to work just as hard as ever, right until June, when he took a leave of absence.
Sandy was very active in the BC LiberalParty; in his home community of Pitt Meadows; as a constituency assistant to former MLA Ken Stewart; and with his family.
I was quite surprised to find out the breadth of his activities in the story written by Maple Ridge News reporter Phil Melynchuk and our reporter Monique Tamminga.
He most certainly deserved to be named Pitt Meadows citizen of the year in May, and given his health challenges, I’m so glad that he did receive that honour.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to know Sandy even better. He’s the kind of person who makes communities so much better because of commitment and passion.
One thing’s for sure. He made Langley School District better in less than two years of service.