Jim Ogilvie has been serving the City of Kimberley and area as a councillor or mayor for all but three years since 1964.
Kimberley, incorporated March 29, 1944, was but 20 years old when Ogilvie was first elected as a councillor for the Village of Marysville in the fall of 1964, the same year the District of Sparwood was incorporated and seven years before the District of Elkford incorporated.
Ogilvie was in his 27th year in public office when the Village of Radium Hot Springs incorporated in 1990.
Including outgoing District of Invermere councillor Bob Campsall and his 12 years’ experience, Ogilvie has more years as Mayor of Kimberley than the years compiled by the entire Invermere council – with 33 years. He was first elected mayor in 1972 and held office for consecutive terms until 2002 when he was defeated by Ron McRae. Ogilvie returned to office in 2005 and is seeking his 13th term as Kimberley’s mayor this Nov. 19. His challenger? Ron McRae.
Needless to say, when it comes to experience in municipal politics, Ogilvie is in a class all by himself.
And asking him to outline the highlights of his political career is akin to someone asking what’s on tap in a brew house. Be prepared for a lengthy list, because every major aspect of the city has an Ogilvie stamp on it or a role played.
Ogilvie first entered public service in 1964 as a councillor with the Village of Marysville. Can’t Buy Me Love and A Hard Day’s Night were topping the pop charts; the Rolling Stones appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show; My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and Goldfinger were big at the box office and Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize.
At the time, Marysville, like most small towns and village in B.C., ran on a shoestring.
“We were so poor that we debated whether we could afford to buy a new chair for our council chambers,” Ogilvie recalled.
Keeping that shoestring in mind, Ogilvie embarked on his first political conquest, attaining via petition the support of Marysville citizens to pay for the paving of village streets. “It was just gravel and dust and a lot of not gravel – just dust,” he said.
Despite the presence of the massive Cominco Mine, Marysville, Kimberley and Chapman Camp, the three communities that eventually became Kimberley, did not benefit as the mine was outside all municipal boundaries.
It wasn’t until 1968 when Marysville amalgamated with Kimberley, that Cominco entered the tax base.
“It was good for us – we were able to do a lot of things we felt were needed,” said Ogilvie, who became a city councillor that year. However, a deal was in place that made it so Cominco only paid “a limited amount of taxes,” he noted.
In 1972, Ogilvie began his first term as Mayor of Kimberley and soon after he ventured to Victoria to get the Cominco agreement removed “so we’d have the same taxing authority as other communities.”
It was a risky move daring to off put the largest employer in the region, as Ogilvie noted, “Being a one industry town, Cominco controlled just about everything,” including the town’s water supply.
That said, the mine was usually a cooperative and sometimes generous entity in the town. “They always matched the community dollar for dollar” on recreation projects and other endeavours, Ogilvie said.
The year 1972 stands out for another reason as an important one for Kimberley.
It was the year the Bavarian Society was created, which worked with businesses and the city to create the Platzl.
That same year, Ogilvie seized on a federal funding program, called the Neighbourhood Improvement Program (NIP).
“Funds from that program were allocated for various projects which were implemented by community groups and organizations. In addition, improvements were made to local parks and a liner was installed in the Kimberley Creek drainage pipe,” Ogilvie said.
Around that same time Peter Berber, Sandra Roberts, Mary Stewart and Steve Waterhouse formed the Arts Centre Society and Ogilvie and his council was able to direct NIP funds to them to buy the old Armories Building and turn it into an arts centre, now known as Centre 64. In addition, NIP funds were used to build the Kimberley Library “which has served our community very well over the years,” Ogilvie said.
Keeping an eye out for senior government grant programs became a skill with Ogilvie, ever on the watch for ways to spare taxpayers further burden. And in 1979 another eye was cast toward tourism, when the city received a provincial government grant to deal with water and sewer at the ski resort.
“This was necessitated by the fact that the ski area water supply was found to contain unsafe levels of lead,” Ogilvie said.
“This was a very trying time for city crews,” Ogilvie said. However, he turned Kimberley’s pain into a gain by Ogilvie who convinced the provincial government into providing disaster relief funds.
“As a result of the replacement of the waterlines our infrastructure was significantly improved,” he noted.
A few months later, in May 1979, the city concluded negotiations with the BC Development Corporation, Cominco and the provincial government to secure 165 acres of land at the ski resort.
“This agreement allowed the ski society to expand and also build the first two condos on the mountain,” Ogilvie said.
The next winter Kimberley hosted the Winter Games.
“We were the first community with a population of less than 25,000 people to host the games and the citizens of Kimberley came together and hosted an event that was the best of all previous games,” Ogilvie recalled.
In the fall of 1980, Ogilvie and council once again seized on a funding program to benefit Kimberley, helping expand its tourism infrastructure and take it into the warmer seasons.
The Tourism Industry Development Subsidiary Agreement (TIDSA) program was tapped into “after long negotiations between the federal government, the B.C. Government, the city and the local ski and golf clubs. At the time, both the province and the feds were very interested in expanding the tourist industry within B.C. and Canada. The city received a $3.1 million forgivable loan, which was used to build Gerry Sorensen Way (the new road to the ski resort) and the North Star Centre was added to the Day Lodge, a covered tennis court in the inflatable bubble, a lodge at the top of the mountain and an Alpine slide. As well, nine holes were added to the Kimberley Golf Course, which resulted in many new golfers coming to Kimberley. The golf project was so successful that people began to think about building another golf course in Kimberley,” Ogilvie outlined.
Over the course of the rest of the 1980s, Kimberley continued to have currently important city aspects added to it, including the Bavarian Mining Railway, the installation of the Matthew Creek water system, improvements to the curling club and the Platzl with the Bavarian theme emerged. Funds were used to alter sidewalks in the downtown core to brick. The entire project was called the “by far the best in the province” for its kind by Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Ritchie.
The Bavarian theme arrived by “accident – well not totally,” Ogivlie chuckled. The committee working on the Platzl project had targeted an Alpine theme, which had already been claimed by Revelstoke. Kimberley pushed on with the mountain theme and the Bavarian texture just fell out of that.
“It turned out to be pleasing to the eye,” Ogilvie said, “Even though the Germans were one of the smaller ethnic groups in the community. We adopted that theme because it fit aesthetically and the theme has lasted a long time. We’ve got a lot of mileage out of it. And over 30 years of promotion has gone into it, too. So it doesn’t surprise me it’s had a lasting effect.”
In 1985 Ogilvie sent letters to all federal government MPs and members of the Senate asking to have the Community Futures Program brought to the East Kootenay. Efforts continued through 1986 and in 1987 he was successful having the program brought to Kimberley.
“Later, an application to Community Futures for a $1 million grant was also successful. The Futures grant was combined with two provincial grants and some local funding from the Kimberley Development Society. The combined funds were then used to construct the Trickle Creek Golf Course,” Ogilvie explained.
The year before the Kimberley Ski Resort Society was “forced into bankruptcy by the Bank of Montreal – a result of interest rates rising to 25% and it became impossible to meet the very high interest and principal payments,” Ogilvie said, adding the city then had the opportunity to purchase the $2.8 million mortgage for $700,000, which it did so by getting a loan from the local Credit Union.
The early 1990s were years of further infrastructure rehabilitation.
“For many years Cominco and the city were aware that the Mark Creek water system was reaching the end of its useful life,” Ogilvie pointed out. “Until 1991 Cominco had maintained that the city should upgrade the system, at the city’s expense, but ownership of the system would remain with Cominco. However, in 1991 Cominco’s attitude changed and so the city obtained a grant to study the Mark Creek system.
“On the advice of the government and Cominco engineers, the city began to look at replacing the dam at the site of the then existing dam. However, one day a local citizen by the name of Walter Erickson asked to see me and he told me that there is a much a better site to build the dam upstream from where the old dam was,” Ogilvie said, smiling at the memory.
“He told the engineers to take a look at the canyon entrance spot and they liked it. Teck (Cominco) and government didn’t like it,” he said. City councilors Roy Almas and Bert Banks hiked to the site and confirmed its potential. The city went ahead with it the canyon site, providing residents with 60 million gallons of storage instead of seven million.
“We now have one of the best water systems in the area,” Ogilvie said.
And in a case of ‘build it and they will fund’ once the dam was completed the mayor and his council were able to get funding support from the provincial government to the tune of $3.9 million to help with the construction of a new $5.8 million pipeline.
Already a seasoned vet at the Regional District of East Kootenay board table, Ogilvie became board chair in 1994, as well as chair of the East Kootenay Regional Hospital District. He held both positions until 2002, when he was defeated in the mayor’s seat for the first time.
Kimberley business marched along through the late 1990s, with Forest Crowne subdivision emerging after discussions between the city, Cominco and the Ministry of Lands.
Negotiations resulted in Cominco receiving Crown lands in the mine area and the boundaries of the Kimberley Nature Park were agreed upon. In addition, Cominco and a major developer set about with the Forest Crowne subdivision.
In 1998 the ski resort, Trickle Creek Golf Course, the campground and 250 acres of resort lands were sold to Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. The Stemwinder Lodge and Marriot Hotel resulted along with massive changes to the ski resort.
“In fact, the new construction created many jobs and helped the city to recover a large portion of the tax base which was lost when the mine closed (in 2001),” Ogilvie said.
The city used some funds from the sale to build the Riverside Campground and the Bootleg Gap Golf Course, “both of which have become valuable assets which attract many new visitors to Kimberley,” Ogilvie points out.
Pushing into the 21st Century, Ogilvie helped City of Cranbrook Mayor Ross Priest in his lobby efforts to expand the Cranbrook Airport and then he found himself in a strange place in 2002 – on the outside looking in, beaten out of his seat by Ron McRae.
Three years later, he was back and he launched into trying to solve two lingering problems, the Aquatic Centre, which “was seriously over budget” and the city was facing the loss of 2010 Legacies Now Project funding due to stagnation (not being used).
The Aquatic Centre issue was handled when the city “had to dig deeply into reserve funds in order to complete the project,” Ogilvie said.
“Likewise, after an intensive investigation of the proposed conference centre/museum/paralympic training centre, it was determined that it could not be built with the funds that were available,” Ogilvie said, noting the deadline for signing the agreement for the grant was approaching “and it became clear that we had to get the terms and conditions of the grant modified or we needed a lot more money.”
Back to Victoria Ogilvie went, meeting with cabinet ministers lobbying and eventually he was able to secure a grant in exchange for a commitment to build only the training centre. Ogilvie then told the province he would be seeking additional funds for the conference centre.
Two years later, after talks with several cabinet members and the Premier, a federal/provincial infrastructure grant of $2 million was obtained, meaning the city had to come to the table with $1 million. The Columbia Basin Trust and Southern Interior Development Trust were brought to the table and as a result construction of conference/training centre began in the fall of 2010 and was completed early last winter.
Other recent projects of note during Ogilvie’s 12th term in office include upgrades to the highway from Marysville to Red’s Esso and the Rails to Trails project.
“This project has been heavily used by locals from Cranbrook and Kimberley. As well, people are coming from outside our area to ride or walk the trail,” Ogilvie said.
Infrastructure has been a focus of Ogilvie’s in his time in office, but he is quick to point out that Kimberley’s social needs have also been tended to, noting the Pines Special Care Home, Lions Manor, Valleyview Seniors’ Home, Gate House Gardens and Garden View Assisted Care Facility have all appeared during his time in office.
He quickly added that the bulk of the work done to ensure the arrival of those facilities “was provided by the many volunteers who were involved.
“For example, Garden View Village came about by a cooperative effort between the Health Centre Society, the personal Care Society, Golden Life and the city,” he said.
All this for and from a city that could have slipped into ghost town obscurity when its main employer closed its doors.
“When the mine closed, the city lost 55% of its tax base. Many were predicting that the town was finished, yet Kimberley has not only been able to hold its own in difficult times, but we have added to and improved our infrastructure and facilities and kept taxes reasonable. Kimberley was always a good place to live, but now it is a great place to live,” Ogilvie said.
“Every week I find new people who moved here and they say ‘boy am I ever glad I made the move to Kimberley,’” he said, adding, “I believe it has become the place to be and our economy isn’t in the serious trouble people think it is in.”
Looking to the future, Ogilvie is keen about the Sun Mine proposal – another project that could be added to his lifetime of achievements.
“We have a unique opportunity to have a project that will have unlimited amount of publicity that will be generated. A brown field site to a green field, green energy site!” he exclaimed.
While the city has to borrow $2 million to help make the solar energy project take place, it will be money well-borrowed, Ogilvie said.
“Private enterprise can’t do it – they can’t get the grants and, besides, they want a bigger project. To me this is a very important project for Kimberley,” he said, adding he wonders why some people don’t like the idea.
“What’s wrong with making a buck on behalf of the taxpayer?” Ogilvie asks, past city projects that resulted in improvements to the city without heavy impacts on the taxpayer circling his words.
Should he be successful in the Nov. 19 election and earn his 13th term in office, Ogilvie’s tenure in elected service will reach into a fifth decade – an achievement rarely accomplished in any jurisdiction.
Ian Cobb/e-KNOWTags: Bavarian Mining RailwayBootleg Gap Golf CoursCentre 64City of KimberleyComincoForest CrowneGerry Sorensen WayJim OgilvieKimberley Golf CourseKimberley Nature ParkKimberley Ski ResortKimberley Ski Resort SocietyMark CreekMatthew CreekNeighbourhood Improvement ProgramPlatzlRegional District of East KootenayResorts of the Canadian RockiesTeckTIDSATrickle Creek Golf CourseVillage of Marysville
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