Many Richmond residents recognize the name Linda Barnes; she is a woman who has worn and continues to wear many hats in our community. She is a retired politician and a tireless volunteer who sits on a variety of local boards and committees to benefit Steveston, which she has called home for 48 years.
Perhaps best known as a former Richmond city councillor, Linda was elected five times from 1999 to 2014 when she retired.
How did she go from being an Education Assistant and Youth Worker to holding a seat on city council? Linda became an active CUPE union member while she was an E.A. in the 1970s. This eventually led to becoming CUPE President and it was during her time with the union that people encouraged her to get involved in civic politics.
Linda says, “I was always curious about politics. When I was young I enjoyed big debates and discussions with my father.”
Linda and her husband Brian moved from Vancouver to Steveston in 1970 as housing prices were much more affordable here. It was a different place when the canneries were in operation and she shares stories of the smells that permeated the air. Nonetheless, she embraced her new community.
They raised their two kids and Linda continued working with children with special needs for 26 years. In 1996 she threw her hat into the ring and ran for city council. She came close and was elected when she ran again in 1999.
There were numerous highlights during her time as a city councillor, such as the affordable housing strategy. Linda says, “It was the first one and it was a great beginning.” Another accomplishment was creating the dyke reserve – this initiative allocates a portion of tax dollars towards a reserve to maintain and increase our dyke system.
Linda mentions the 2010 Winter Olympics were another source of pride. She says, “It really put Richmond on the map. It was an exciting time and we are still seeing the benefits.”
She enjoys having accomplished lasting legacies. “The work is never done. There is always more to do,” Linda adds.
While on council she fought for a number of initiatives to invigorate community participation in the village, including the Tall Ships Festival, Britannia Heritage Shipyard, the Maritime Festival as well as the Steveston Tram restoration.
When Linda retired from politics in 2014 she did not pause, she began to offer her many talents to a number of local non-profit organizations.
Linda enjoys travelling, cycling, walking and spending time with her children and grandchildren; she ensures the assorted boards and committees she belongs to know that her retirement comes first.
Linda has been President of the Steveston Historical Society for four years and is currently in her final year.
The Society has introduced some new programming to attract more people to Steveston to shine the spotlight on the village’s rich cultural heritage.
Last December was the inaugural year for Songs in the Snow: A Vintage Christmas. For the first three Saturdays in December, the community came to celebrate and join in the singing of favourite holiday songs performed by local community and school groups.
In the spirit of community and giving, Songs in the Snow supported the Richmond Hospital/Healthcare Auxiliary Thrift Shop building restoration and Ignite the Warmth, which provides blankets to the homeless.
Steveston Alive! Walking Tour Vignettes have proven to be extremely popular and returned to the village again this summer. Led by a narrator through the streets of Steveston, five historical plays were performed by talented actors from Hugh McRoberts Secondary.
Linda mentions the performances received glowing reviews and often sold out. She has words of praise for Andrew Wade who wrote the scripts, the talented students who committed two months of their time to take on the project and Sarah Glen, Executive Director of the Steveston Historical Society who brought it all together.
After spending 48 years in this community how does Linda feel today? She reports with a warm laugh, “It would be almost impossible to leave. Our friends and their children all grew up together.”
She adds, “Although the canneries are gone, fishing remains viable and it is still a working town. We can’t lose that, it is the attraction to Steveston: buying fish off the dock and seeing fish being unloaded from the boats. That is what makes Steveston different – the fishing industry and the small shops.”
She concludes with a smile, “I am interested in the future of what happens to Steveston. Living in this community is like living in a small town. People know each other. Sometimes we squabble, but that’s because we care about the people and the village we live in.”