Bill Reid will be remembered for all the great things he did for Surrey

Bill Reid will be remembered for all the great things he did for Surrey

My most vivid memory of Bill Reid takes us back to Oct. 17, 1991, on a night that rang in the destruction of his beloved Social Credit Party.

He had been working to get Judy Higginbotham elected Socred MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale, a seat he had formerly held himself. But Higginbotham, like so many of the party's candidates - premier Rita Johnston, in Surrey-Newton, among them - were being swept off B.C.'s political map.

Not only did that night mark the end of a long-running era of governance under the Socreds, it reduced them to third place - dropping from 47 to seven seats - as the NDP "boogied" into power under Mike Harcourt and the upstart Liberal party became the official opposition.

Reid was a wreck. Sitting alone in the Cloverdale campaign office, with his elbows on his desk and face buried in his hands, he was bemoaning the party's fate.

He was also well aware that the office door was open and that this young reporter (me, at the time) and a photographer were lurking just beyond its jamb.

Reid's despair would have made a helluva shot for the newspaper. But he wouldn't have it.

Every time the camera's lens drifted in his direction, he immediately regained his composure, straightened up and grinned like a used car salesman. Such was this game we played, and it went on in silence for some time.

Lamentably, we never did get the shot.

Sadly, Reid, at age 78, lost his battle with cancer Tuesday night.

Many will remember Reid for the many great things he did for this city, and rightfully so.

The former car dealer was Surrey's MLA from 1983 to 1986 and represented Surrey-White Rock Cloverdale from 1986 to 1991. Before that, he was a Delta alderman from 1973 to 1978.

Many will still remember his very public fall from grace more than two decades ago. On Sept. 21, 1989, Reid was forced to resign from his post as Socred tourism minister after he awarded more than $250,000 in GO B.C. lottery grants to a project that was run by a family friend and a former campaign manager. The RCMP recommended that he be charged with breach of trust but Ted Hughes, the deputy attorney general at the time, decided not to prosecute him.

Tainted by scandal, after his departure from provincial politics Reid nevertheless made good on his redemption by proving himself to be a quintessential Surrey booster, serving over the following years as vice-president of the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association, executive director and president of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, president of the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce, co-chairman of the Surrey Spirit of B.C. Committee, a board member of the Surrey Heritage Society, a board member of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association, and a member of the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society.

I'm sure I'm missing something. Also, he was an active member of the Cloverdale Kinsmen Club and his work as a Rotarian earned him the Paul Harris Award, one of the highest honours Rotary bestows.

He's been described as a dreamer, a visionary, an outstanding citizen and an unrelenting supporter of all good things Surrey.

Reid's beyond exemplary community service earned him the monikers "Mr. Surrey" and "Mr. Cloverdale," not to mention being chosen Surrey Good Citizen of the Year 2013.

Many will sorely miss his unparalleled community spirit and ever-ready smile.

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