Vernon councillor walked through life making every word, every cent and every vote count | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon councillor walked through life making every word, every cent and every vote count

Vernon Coun. Bob Spiers
Image Credit: City of Vernon
June 28, 2018 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - Bob Spiers left home on Monday morning and walked to Vernon City Hall, just like he always did. The 71-year-old city councillor didn’t have a driver’s license.

The walk from his East Hill home was about 20 minutes, a route he traversed often in between meetings to let his dogs out. He was wearing his usual council meeting attire, a short-sleeved golf shirt, and had with him several pages of notes for his colleagues, printed out in his customarily large font.

“It would be the biggest font you could get,” Coun. Dalvir Nahal says. “Something that would normally be a paragraph would be three pages.”

He took his seat on the far left side of council chambers, beside Nahal, and prepared for a long day of meetings. He wasn’t feeling well that day and complained of a stomach ache, but brushed off suggestions from colleagues that he go home. He never missed a meeting. Instead, he settled into his chair, placed his usual soft drink out in front of him, and got to work doing what he loved best: digging into financial figures, quizzing staff, and casting his votes with taxpayers' best interests in mind.

Despite not having a cell phone, Spiers knew his way around technology, Nahal says. He passionately ran a website called VernonBlog, where visitors could find everything from news reports to how much mayor and council got paid last year to pictures of his dogs. And he knew exactly where and how to find detailed minutes from past agendas with just a few mouse clicks. 

“During council meetings he could look up meetings from three or five years ago right away. It was just amazing how he was able to look things up, find things, and quote things so quickly,” Nahal says.

Spiers could often be seen rustling through papers or hunching over his computer monitor hunting for the exact figure he wanted to quote. Spiers, who had paper white hair and bushy eyebrows — often furrowed in concentration — could sometimes come across as gruff, but those who knew him say he was compassionate, witty and caring.

"He had such a huge heart," Nahal says. 

Spiers was less talkative than most of his peers on city council. He wasn’t one for long speeches and didn’t speak more than he had to. Most of the time when he spoke up, it was to ask questions. 

“He was so low key I don’t think people even know what an asset he was,” Nahal says. “He was not one of those people who needed to hear his own voice. He wasn’t there for points, just to do his job. It was always about the taxpayer.”

A former accountant, Spiers meticulously examined budget documents line by line. Even before he was elected, Spiers was often the only member of the public to attend city budget meetings. 

“He knew where every cent in the city was,” Coun. Scott Anderson says. “His first question on everything was ‘how much is this going to cost the taxpayer?’”

Spiers and Anderson routinely capped off council meetings with a beer at The Kal Sports Bar, a short walk from City Hall.

“He’d have a pint, and I’d have a pint. And then I’d say ‘do you want another one?’ And he’d say ‘a small one’ so we’d have a small one. We’d talk about everything from provincial, to federal to municipal politics,” Anderson says.

Spiers also enjoyed a weekly political chat with his friend Gyula Kiss, a Coldstream councillor. Every Friday, the pair met at A&W for coffee and conversation.

“We clicked very quickly,” Kiss says. “He always tried to get the best deal for the people. He never cared about the politics.”

Like other colleagues, Kiss would often drive Spiers around and remembers him being a vocal backseat driver. 

"I think he liked being driven around," Kiss says. "He would always yell 'watch out for that car.'"

On Monday, after two back-to-back council meetings and two public hearings that went into the evening, Anderson offered to drive Spiers home. He asked about going for a beer, but Spiers said, “I don’t think so this time.” He thought he had stomach flu or maybe just some heartburn. 

Spiers died later that night of a suspected heart attack.

He’s survived by his wife and three children. Funeral arrangements are pending and donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada are appreciated in lieu of flowers — which Spiers would have considered frivolous.

Condolences and tributes have been pouring in for Spiers, whose council seat will remain vacant until the regularly scheduled general election in October.

“I just cannot believe it,” Kiss says. “It is such a shock. What Vernon is losing is a very honest politician.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2018

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