Honours for outgoing mayor Ken McRae and councillor Kenn Whiteman came as a complete surprise, Monday night—even for city council.
In two separate motions, Port Alberni city councillors voted unanimously at their Monday meeting to install McRae and Whiteman as freeman of the city.
Councillors had discussed advancing the move at a future meeting but the initiative was jump-started Monday by an unlikely source.
City officials had just honoured AV Times reporter Shayne Morrow, who is scheduled to retire on Friday after 15 years.
Morrow used the impromptu opportunity to ask councillors to make a motion bestowing the freedom of the city honour on McRae. Coun. Cindy Solda moved the motion and it was passed.
You’ve got to give a man his due while he’s still the man, said Morrow, who has covered city council for most of his journalism career.
“I wanted council to commit to honouring Ken while he was still behind the wheel, rather than having it take place in a couple of weeks,” Morrow said.
The title is usually bestowed on someone who has gone above and beyond for their community, city clerk Davina Sparrow said.
In a later address, city manager Ken Watson said that McRae had navigated the town through maybe the most economically volatile time in the city’s history.
Coun. Hira Chopra moves a second motion to appoint outgoing Whiteman as a freeman. That motion also passed.
According to the community charter, council must vote unanimously when naming someone a freeman of the city.
The title may be bestowed on a distinguished person or unit of the armed forces. The person is also deemed an elector of the city regardless of their residence.
A sitting mayor and councillor can be named freeman of the city, Sparrow said.