A political career can be likened to a roller coaster ride – there’s plenty of highs and some gut-wrenching lows.
But if you hold on tight and with faith, the ride can be exhilarating and sometimes, life changing.
The Trail Times sat down with Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs during his last week in office, asking for reflection on his long service to the community. Saturday’s civic election brings a new name to the top spot for the first time since 2001.
“You learn in politics that nothing moves too fast,” says the soon-to-retire leader. “In the end you have to have patience and learn how to have humility to make any progress.
“And if you stay on the right path, because it’s the right thing to do, eventually you will win out.”
Bogs began his political journey with the drive to advocate for children. He served on the Trail school board for seven years beginning in 1974, which was a time he recalls as being prosperous and ripe for educational opportunities in the area.
“At that time the taxes were collected and stayed local,” he said. “We were a rich district and could put in programs that other districts could only dream about.”
Once the government recognized disparities throughout the province and collectively gathered school taxes into one pot, Bogs said he saw ‘the writing on the wall’ and turned his attention toward local government.
“I was watching an election discussion and one of the councillors said Trail had so many issues ‘right now’ that we couldn’t afford to think about long term planning,” noted Bogs.
He remembers thinking that a city without long range planning was very ill advised and in that moment, he decided to run for council.
He won a seat first time out and served another 10 years before making a bid for the mayoral job.
Through the decades, Bogs has witnessed the city advance dramatically, especially in terms of technology.
He recalled a meeting during that first term, when council deliberated at length over purchasing a fax machine. At the time, the city had only one fax, so all departments had to travel to city hall to share.
“A number of councillors said we didn’t need another and the city couldn’t afford it,” he said with a chuckle. “I couldn’t believe that we spent so much time talking about a fax machine. At the time most businesses had a fax in every office and we had only one to run the whole city.”
Times have changed, according to Bogs, because fast forward to present day, and the City of Trail is ahead of the times with advanced telephone systems, and its own computer infrastructure that includes an up-to-date website and active social media networking.
“Things have really changed,” he said. “Compared to those days, the city is so far ahead in technology, and I am really proud of that.”
Over his 30 years of service, Bogs recalls the first 10 being “survival mode” following Cominco’s heavy financial losses in the early 1990s.
“Trail went through very difficult times when the company announced they were no longer making profit and were considering shutting down the operation,” he explained. “Many stepped up to the plate including the city and the regional district, to reduce their taxes by millions,” Bogs continued. “Employees agreed not to ask for wage increases for five years, suppliers took a three per cent cut in costs and the provincial government bought water rights that were later transferred to Columbia Basin Trust.”
He said during the survival mode period, all the city could do was hang on and maintain because the money wasn’t there to upgrade infrastructure or enhance the community in terms of services.
After retaining his position by acclamation in 2002, Bogs recalls the next 10 years as a time for Trail to dust itself off and begin a recovery phase.
“The next third of my time was coming out of survival and getting the city back to a normal life,” he said. “After no infrastructure for 10 years to where we are today, ahead of the curve, that is something I am proud of, Especially taking into account that for so long we could do nothing.”
At the nexus of the recovery stage, was improving Trail’s likeness and reputation and across North America and globally.
“At the time, operations on the hill had some real problems,” he recalled. “A number of incidents gave Trail and the company an extremely poor image not only locally but in the world. Council went to the CEO and said that the city cannot survive this way.”
The company agreed and gave the city $250,000 to develop a program and form and image committee added Bogs.
New initiatives grew from the group’s ideas, which eventually put Trail on a positive national and international scale with the Communities in Bloom program. Additionally, Teck invested millions at Trail Operations in a successful effort to reduce plant emissions while greening the city’s landscape.
“We have changed the image of Trail not only locally but in the world,” he said. “But that is something every citizen of Trail can be proud of because it requires involvement from the entire community and the company.”
However, it was during the mid-2000s that along with the good came the long time mayor’s biggest regret in office.
“I have been very youth oriented and yet I am really sad that we never put in a skateboard park,” he said. “It’s been one of my objectives but has not been successful and for that, I really feel bad because the youth deserve it.”
After the last decade of improving the city’s old bones, today it’s time to bring in new ideas to enhance the city and ensure its sustainability moving into the future.
“It’s time for change in leadership so my hope is that the new mayor will take the city to the next growing phase, so we can maintain the wonderful lifestyle that we have for all the residents in our area, not just Trail.
“The new council will have to learn that when you take three steps ahead you may have to take two back. But I say, don’t worry about the two steps back because you’re still one step ahead.”