With this week’s passing of former Saanich Mayor Hugh Curtis goes a longtime friend and mentor to current Mayor Frank Leonard.
Curtis succumbed to cancer at age 81 on Tuesday. His legacy from his time as Saanich mayor, from 1964 to 1973, is one of building the parks, greenbelts and recreation centres that shape Saanich as we know it today.
“Later, when he moved to provincial politics, (Curtis) teased me about my bad judgment,” Leonard recalls. “I found out about Curtis’ (success) the hard way: when he ran with the Conservatives in 1972 and I worked knocking on doors against him.
“But he was the first to call and congratulate me when I squeaked in as a Saanich alderman in 1986, his baritone radio voice speaking to me at 7 a.m. after a long night.”
Curtis started his career in radio; as an integral part of CFAX’s first years in the early 1960s, including as part of the station’s election coverage. He joined Saanich council in 1961 before being elected to mayor in 1963.
His initiatives are the backbone of Saanich’s modern era, Leonard says. Some moves were as simple as bringing in street lights. But he used a town referendum to approve the building of the Gordon Head and Cedar Hill Recreation Centres, George R. Pearkes Arena and the Les Passmore Seniors Centre. And it took some moxie to acquire the McRae lands that became the municipally owned Cedar Hill Golf Course, a “bold move” at the time, Leonard said. The Urban Containment Boundary also came in under Curtis’ watch.
The lure of politics kept Curtis in the game as an MLA with B.C.’s Social Credit party from 1972 to 1986, as minister of municipal affairs from 1975 to 1978 and minister of finance from 1979 to 1986.
Curtis and wife Shelly have three children, Dave, Gary and Susan.