The community of Fort Nelson has lost a long-time standing advocate, a voice – former mayor Bill Streeper passed away Saturday.
A former councillor, he became the first mayor of the, then, newly-established Northern Rockies Regional Municipality in 2009, and held the position until 2018 when he was defeated by current outgoing mayor Gary Foster in 2018.
“He will be missed by many,” said Foster, in hearing the news Sunday morning.
“His dedication to our community, not only as mayor but as councillor. He had a long history in local government and the community, as a whole. Worked tirelessly. The local hospital foundation was just one of the groups near and dear to his heart.”
Streeper, Foster believes, will be remembered for a number of things he did, most notably, the town's recreation facility.
“After the collapse of our rec centre, Bill Streeper made sure that we had a beautiful rec centre here, that was the envy of communities all across the north.”
“He was a larger-than-life character,” added Foster.
“Well-known by the provincial government and a tireless worker for our region.”
Peace River North MLA Dan Davies was saddened to hear the news, but chuckled loudly when asked if he has any memories of Streeper that stuck out.
"You know, when Bill spoke, you listened," he said.
"He was very knowledgeable. He really cared a lot about his community. When you saw that he phoned, you made sure you picked up. He was a very strong individual."
Davies was able to forge a friendship with Streeper, particularly when he became the area's MLA in 2017, describing him as ''always being out there" and certainly not shy.
"I always looked forward to going to lunch with him, go over sit in his office, catch up when I was in Fort Nelson. When he was in Fort St. John, he'd always give a quick dingle," said Davies.
"He will be missed."
“Bill was a fierce defender of his community,” added Fort St. John mayor Lori Ackerman.
[He] fought for the services and programs that were needed to support his community, and by extension, the region. You certainly knew when he was in the room.”
Ackerman admired Streeper's 'get 'er done' approach.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Incoming Northern Rockies mayor Rob Fraser knew Streeper both inside and outside of the political circle, having his own lengthy connection to the community.
“It was a shock to hear of his passing,” said Fraser.
“He was a true leader of the north. Not only did he look after that rec centre, the shining jewel in the community, his business contacts in the oil and gas industry were second-to-none and he was able to use those contacts as mayor to further the whole north, not just Fort Nelson, but the whole north.”
Fraser pointed to another accomplishment Streeper had a hand in.
“The bridge across the Nelson River on Highway 77. He was instrumental in getting that replaced from a bailey bridge to the bridge that it is today. That was important to the entire infrastructure of the north.”
Fraser also remembers his former colleague as having a great sense of humour and sharp wit, and a conversation the two had a couple of years ago at a grocery store while Fraser was in town for a visit.
“It was the day that he was opening his cannabis business. I saw him at the IGA, picking up donuts or something. He said to me: 'oh, you're here for the [grand] opening of my business.”
Former Dawson Creek mayor Dale Bumstead remembers Streeper for his passion and tenacity.
"For getting the best for Fort Nelson/Northern Rockies," said Bumstead.
"He was well known throughout the province and region as that direct, no nonsense leader. My sincere condolences to his family and friends."
While it may not have been widely-known, Streeper had suffered a stroke a few months ago according to a family member and had just celebrated his 70th birthday this past May.
No details of his passing or plans for a service have yet been announced.