Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Remembering a popular mayor's contributions

The Daily News provided a fairly thorough review of the life and times of former Port Edward Mayor Ed Wampler on Monday.
Wampler passed away in the early hours of Friday morning, giving many residents cause to remember his many contributions to the North Coast.

The Daily's remembrance was the front page headline story in Monday's paper, while Patrick Witwicki provided his own observations from his days of covering Port Edward council meetings with an editorial on page four of the Monday paper. Witwicki's comments ensuring for the rest of his days on the north coast, that somebody will now come up and ask him about the firewood incident...

Popular Port Edward politician remembered with affection after passing away Friday
By Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Monday, September 15, 2008

Pages one and two

Port Edward and the North Coast in general is in mourning after learning that councillor and former mayor Ed Wampler passed away early Friday morning.
Wampler was born in 1923 in Pitcaire, Pennsylvania, and had been stationed on the North Coast as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard during the Second World War, beginning his love affair with the area.

By the time the war was over, Wampler had fallen in love with the area, and he decided to move permanently to Port Edward.

Wampler first got involved in council in the mid 1980s, and became mayor of the district from 1993 to 2005.

In 2005, he decided to step down, handing over the reigns to Dave MacDonald, but the people of Port Edward convinced him to stay on for one more term as a councillor, in which capacity he served until his death.

And Wampler was always a huge promoter of Port Edward, even as far as away as Australia.
"He was the biggest ambassador of Port Ed you've ever seen," said his daughter Joanne Orr, who for years has resided in Sydney, Australia. "People in Australia must think Port Ed's a really big place."

Indeed, Wampler did everything he could to get Port Ed on everyone's map.

Just last week, as reported in the Daily News, it was announced that Port Edward had named Wampler a "freeman" of the city, and there are plans in the near future to name a road in Port Edward "Wampler's Way," according to Mayor MacDonald. "You can't replace Ed Wampler," he said. "The thing I admired about Ed was that everyone respected him everywhere, even in our travels. He is well-respected across the province."

Port Edward was incorporated in 1966, but because Wampler was still American, he was unable to run for mayor. That said, Wampler became a Canadian citizen that same year, and quickly got involved with the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, and during that time, he convinced the federal government to build a public wharf in Port Edward.

Recent accomplishments with Wampler on-board have been the Water Treatment plant and the overall "look" of Port Edward.

"Mayor Ed is very special in all of these projects," said MacDonald. "He was always concerned about the dollar value we got. Council meetings, while serious, there was always a light-hearted response."

Over the years, Wampler has been very busy alongside the city of Prince Rupert, and Mayor Herb Pond echoes MacDonald's statements in that the North Coast will sadly miss Wampler's leadership.

"Ed was a guy that encouraged all kinds of people," said Pond. "He was a force that really brought communities together, and he was a driving force behind Prince Rupert and Port Edward coming to work much closer together."

MacDonald still remembers the first time he met Wampler back in the 1970s, and knows how important a role Wampler has played in Port Edward's development.

"I first met Ed, because he brought oil to our house," said MacDonald. "It was great to have him around.

"And if he had something to say to you, he would call you into his office, or take you aside. And no matter what, you always got to have your say."

Pond added: "It's hard to describe, but he had been around the block enough times that little details didn't throw him off. He had an end-goal in mind, and he just kept marching towards that goal. It's very sad to lose him."

Wampler played a significant role in ensuring Port Edward got its water treatment plant, which officially opened in 2005. But perhaps even more impressive was that despite the fact he was down in Vancouver for surgery for most of 2003 - originally for his heart, and then to have his legs amputated - he was still able to make it back to Port Edward for the groundbreaking ceremony with the water treatment plant.

"Even the loss of his legs didn't slow him down," said Pond.

Without a doubt, council chambers just won't be the same now that Wampler is gone, said MacDonald.

"He will be sadly missed by the North, not just Port Edward," he said.

The memorial service for Ed Wampler will be held this Friday at 7 p.m. at the United Church, with a reception to follow at the Crest.

Mayor Ed’s shoes hard to fill
Port Edward politics will never be the same
Patrick Witwicki
The Daily News
Monday, September 15, 2008
Page four

But even now, it’s still hard for many of us to cope with the fact that something’s obviously going to be missing from council chambers in Port Ed from now on.

As reported in both Friday and today’s Daily News (see story on page 1), Ed Wampler – still referred by all of us here in the office as “Mayor Ed” even though he’s actually been a councilor since 2005 – passed away early in the morning on Friday. Even up until the very end, Wampler’s heart bled Port Edward, as on Wednesday, he asked current Mayor Dave MacDonald what went on at council on Tuesday night even though he knew himself that he was probably entering his last days.

And for us here at the Daily News, we echo the statements of the community that yeah, we’re going to miss him.

When I first moved here in 2003, I assumed my only job would be sports, and was rather belligerent at first that my editor also expected me to cover Port Edward. Even though I was originally from Vancouver, where driving anywhere that should be five minutes can take up to 30, driving all the way to Port Edward twice a month at first seemed like a big hassle.

And at first, Mayor Ed wasn’t around because he was still recovering from surgery to remove his legs.

But once he returned, I quickly learned what he meant to not only Port Edward, but the North Coast in general. And he always made me feel welcome.

To this day, still one my first – and favourite memories was when Mayor Ed, back in the mayor’s chair for the first time in months, decided to go off about Telus, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Isn’t it refreshing to have a politician speaking his mind, instead of trying to spin it.”

I also enjoyed immensely (while I’m sure Macdonald didn’t) when Wampler rather sarcastically began giving it to MacDonald for the infamous “firewood incident” (don’t ask), and while MacDonald looked rather uncomfortable answering Wampler’s questions, the rest of us inside council chambers were having a lot of trouble holding back our laughter.

And that was Ed. If he had something to say, doggone it he was going to say it, regardless who was in the room.

And yet at the same time, he always offered everyone the outmost respect, no matter who you were. Again, unlike some politicians - or anybody really - who have a tendency to act like they’re better than anyone else, Ed Wampler never did that. Everyone was treated equally, and fairly, even if he was ticked off at you.

And even then, Mayor Ed would take you aside and chat one-on-one, as opposed to giving you the gears in front of everyone else.

Without a doubt then, it’s only fitting that once Port Edwards get its new subdivision and builds a subsequent street in his honour that they name it “Wampler’s Way .” After all, it’s been Mayor Ed’s way for nearly 30 years out in Port Edward, and still should be for years to come.

And perhaps that’s what we’ll miss the most.

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