Vernon councillor Bob Spiers (third from left) and colleagues accepted appreciation medals earlier this year from retiring Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Jim McNamara. Spiers died Monday at age 71. (File photo)

Colleagues fondly remember Vernon councillor Spiers

Bob Spiers, who died Monday at 71, is being remembered for more than the city’s financial watchdog

You know Bob Spiers had a thing for the City of Vernon’s finances when he’d be the only resident to show up at public budget presentations.

Colleagues are remembering the three-term councillor, who died suddenly Monday evening at age 71 after having attended two council meetings and two public hearings earlier in the day.

“Bob spent pretty well all his time checking out various financial city issues,” said Coun. Catherine Lord in a moving tribute on her personal Facebook page.

Lord and Coun. Brian Quiring both pointed out how meticulously prepared Spiers was when it came to the city’s finances.

“He’d work through his Excel spreadsheets and then email them to me to check his numbers in case he’d missed something,” said Lord. “Then he’d bring copies for everyone on council for discussion (always in probably size 20 font).”

Added Quiring: “He would drill down on the issue and then he would always bring a paper synopsis of what his concerns were, very well laid out and thoughtful, in terms of explaining his concern. You’d always have a piece of paper in front of you that you could refer to. He’s the only councillor that would actually hand something out to the rest of us so we could follow along in his logic and thought process.”

Spiers, a retired brokerage manager and vice-president, arrived in Vernon in 1991. He ran unsuccessfully for council in 2005 but then was elected in the 2008, 2011 and 2014 municipal votes. He had hinted during recent council meetings that he would not be seeking re-election in the upcoming October election.

In a 2008 interview in The Morning Star, Spiers said he let his name stand for council because he had “an interest in how the city operates and there are a few things I’d like to accomplish.”

“I’d like to take a look at the budget, line by line, and see where we can save dollars and provide the same, if not better, service,” said Spiers, who was also a proponent of downtown housing construction.

He kept citizens up to date on political happenings on his blog, Vernon Blog.

“Bob was a great guy. The first term, I really relied on his experience and expertise with respect to the budget and the financial dealings of the city,” said Quiring. “I just have the utmost respect for his concern that council ensures the city is being a good steward of the taxpayers’ money. That just came through loud and clear. Bob was a really good man. He was very concerned about all of the residents.”

Quiring and other councillors sometimes served as chauffeurs for Spiers, who did not have driver’s licence.

“He mostly liked to walk but if we had a long morning and he felt he didn’t have enough time to walk home and let his dogs out, I would drop him off and we’d obviously have a pretty good conversation around what happened during the previous meeting,” said Quiring.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham said Spiers could be counted on for understanding her position on social issues council deals with, which are very important to Cunningham.

“Bob was a very empathetic person,” said Cunningham. “He was a fiscal conservative but he certainly had a big heart for those that were struggling in our community. He worked with me to try and make affordable housing more accessible in terms of changes we could make within our bylaws to make projects more affordable. He was a real champion for that. He had a big heart.”

Lord said Spiers was a “very self-contained and private man, but oh, he was so proud of his kids and how well they were doing in life.”

“He had a special soft spot for RCMP, and anyone in the first responders field and volunteers,” said Lord. “His compassion was boundless. He never looked for public attention, and would undoubtedly be pretty embarrassed at how much he’s being discussed right now.

“His absence will be keenly felt in council chambers, by both council and city staff. He will be missed very, very much.”

No details on a funeral service for Spiers have been announced by his family or the city.

Mayor Akbal Mund said there will be no byelection to fill Spiers’ seat as municipal elections are less than four months away (Oct. 20).

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