Monterey Faces: Meet John Herbert, former municipal councillor

Linda Foubister interviews John Herbert of the Monterey Recreation Activity Association

Monterey centre volunteer Linda Foubister interviews John Herbert, board member of the Monterey Recreation Activity Association.

What brought you to the Victoria area? And what is your life history?

I was born and raised in Saanich, graduating from the original Mt. Douglas High School. My father was born in 1872 in England and emigrated to Canada as a teenager. He homesteaded a property east of Edmonton and developed a farm. In 1898, he took a break to go to the Yukon gold rush. He moved to Victoria in 1927 and bought acreage in Saanich where I was born in 1935.

I attended UBC after high school, receiving a Bachelor of Commerce. I articled with Peat Marwick Mitchell, as the firm was known then, and earned my designation as a Chartered Accountant. I practiced for a number of years both in Vancouver and Victoria and then joined the provincial government, where I ran the Pharmacare program and then became the Senior Financial Officer for the Ministry of Health.

When I was studying at university in Vancouver, I met my wife Ann; we have been married for 57 years and have three children and three grandchildren.

I served 15 years on Oak Bay council and before that, 12 years on the Oak Bay Board of Variance. As a former politician, I have been asked what are the ideal qualities for a politician. I answer: “common sense.”

What do you like about living in Oak Bay?

We have lived in the same house near Willows Beach for 50 years. I like the beauty of Oak Bay’s surroundings, the simplicity of our rules and regulations and our unique village.

How long have you been a member of the Monterey Recreation Centre?

I have been a member of Monterey Recreation Centre for three and a half years. During the time I served on Oak Bay council, I was careful to avoid conflict of interest situations and for that reason, I didn’t join the centre. In 2014, I didn’t run for election so I was then free to join.

What are you most proud of during your time as an Oak Bay councillor?

In 2006, Oak Bay celebrated its centennial and I chaired the Centennial Committee that was responsible for events and legacy projects, such as the Town Clock and the new Windsor Park Pavilion. The Town Clock on Oak Bay Avenue was built by a company called It’s About Time. I remember travelling to Langley to check on the progress of the clock and going to a shack where three bearded craftsmen worked. They did a remarkable job making the clock. It has a traditional exterior, but inside is a high-tech clock using satellite-based time. The Business Improvement Association and residents sponsored our wonderful clock.

The Windsor Pavilion was rebuilt in 2005 on the site of the original building. The community really came together for its opening. The Victoria Symphony played in Windsor Park as the CIBC helped with the receipt of donations and Thrifty Foods Fairfield donated enough cake for 2,000 to 3,000 people.

What do you do as a member and a volunteer at Monterey Recreation Centre?

I serve as a Director at Large and I sit on the Finance Committee of the Monterey Recreation Activity Association. I try to do the tasks that are needed, such as seeking donations and publicity.

Why do you volunteer, what’s your motivation or reward?

I have been impressed with the centre for years, and I want to be useful.

What do you like about the centre?

It is an amazing place. There are so many things to do, such as hearing wonderful speakers, taking trips including outings to the Chemainus Theatre shows, and participating in a choice of 30 clubs. I have become interested in family history and I am thinking about joining the Family History Club.

How would you describe the centre to a newcomer?

People are astounded at how many things there are to do at the centre. A volunteer is available to show them around. The centre is a significant place, with excellent food service and its weekly events that are well attended. We have 2,400 members and of those, about 1,300 are Oak Bay residents.

What issues do you see with the centre?

The facility is getting older and requires maintenance. We are pressed for space and there are parking problems. Although the building is owned and run by the Municipality of Oak Bay, the MRAA provides funding for furnishings, equipment and other needed supports. As a non-profit organization, we can provide tax receipts for donations and I encourage people to make donations if they can.

What ideas do you have to improve the centre?

Our next project is to redo the lobby to make it more welcoming and free of drafts from the door. We have a variety of visions for the lobby.

What are you reading now?

I enjoy reading about World War II. When I was a child, my father would listen to London Calling on the radio, so I have a long history learning about the war. I am reading Last Hope Island by Lynne Olson about Britain and World War II and Lancaster to Berlin by Spike Thompson, an Allied bomber pilot in the war. I am rereading the biography of Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post.

What are your hobbies?

Travelling and wood working. Our love for travel began when my wife and I were first married and drove our Morris Minor across Canada to the east coast as far as Virginia. My favourite places to travel are China, Italy and Great Britain. We have just returned from Israel and London where we have stayed at the same B & B for years. In my spare time, I enjoy turning wood and making pieces such as tables. To stay fit, I work out on the tread mill at Henderson Park.

What would surprise people about you?

My father was 63 when I was born.

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