After a quarter century as an elected leader in Langley City, Mayor Ted Schaffer is planning for the last few months as mayor.
Schaffer announced earlier this year that he would step down rather than run again. Earlier this year he went through surgery for colon cancer, and two years ago he suffered from a serious heart condition that reduced his heart function to 30 per cent of normal.
After more than 19 years on council and more than five years as mayor, Schaffer has decided to step down from a job he loved – despite falling into it almost by accident.
“It was never my intention to become the mayor,” said Schaffer.
Born in Mission and raised in New Westminster, Schaffer moved with his wife Jean and his two young daughters to Langley City 38 years ago. He was looking for a place to raise his family that would allow them to grow up with both city and rural aspects.
His daughters took part in softball and ringette and horseback riding, while Schaffer managed the material stores operation for an electrical contractor.
In 1988, he dipped his toe into the world of civic politics when he served on the City’s advisory planning committee.
For the next two years, Schaffer watched a lot of council meetings, and in 1990 he ran and won a seat himself for the first time.
“I wanted to help and serve the community,” he said of his reasons for running. He compared it to helping out with his daughters’ softball league, where he coached and eventually became president of the 80-team league.
Over the next 19 years, Schaffer won multiple elections to the council – he took a three-year break between 2008 and 2011 – and was part of the decision making that saw tremendous change in the City.
“Kwantlen [University College] wasn’t there, the Fraser Highway wasn’t one way,” Schaffer said of the changes since he first served. The City built the new Timms Community Centre and City hall complex, rebuilt Al Anderson Memorial Pool, and renovated many parks. Stepping Stone, the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope, and the Seniors Centre were all built, and one of the major downtown intersections was redeveloped as the Cascades Casino and Convention Centre.
Schaffer was satisfied to be on council through most of these major changes to the City. But in 2013, multi-term mayor Peter Fassbender stepped down to run as a BC Liberal in the provincial election.
Rather than hold an election, City council decided to appoint an interim mayor from its own ranks.
“A couple of my colleagues arm-twisted me,” Schaffer said, with Coun. Jack Arnold and the late Dave Hall the major instigators.
“I said, okay, if you guys are agreeable,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer then won re-election as mayor for a full term in 2014.
The biggest change from councillor to mayor was the time commitment, Schaffer said.
But despite the longer hours, he said he enjoyed meeting people more than any other aspect of the job.
“It was always enjoyable listening to another point of view,” he said.
Although he’s stepping down, Schaffer remains invested in the future of Langley City, listing a number of projects he hopes will keep on expanding, including housing and public amenities.
Asked what project he’s most proud of during his quarter-century as councillor and mayor, Schaffer picked out the upgrades to parks and other public amenities.
“So people, residents, and families can go out and enjoy the community through recreation,” he said.
He’s also proud of infrastructure improvements ranging from the City’s water reservoir to roads and utilities.
“Whatever we’ve built, we’ve built with the money that we had in the bank,” he said.
As he steps down from the mayoral role shortly after the Oct. 20 election, Schaffer is planning to keep busy. He and his wife Jean are organizing for the Langley Christmas Bureau, and have found it a new location and are organizing a massive Nov. 27 breakfast at Newlands at which visitors will drop off new toys.
It’s part of the same philosophy that put him on council and in the mayor’s chair as well.
“We’re trying to create a community that people want to be a part of,” Schaffer said.