This story is the second in a series on Surrey’s eight councillors-elect.
For Doug Elford, the third time was the charm.
The longtime Surrey resident, and community advocate, has been elected after three runs at a council seat: First as an independent in 1999, then in 2011 under the Surrey Civic Coalition banner with former mayor Bob Bose.
While he was unsuccessful in those attempts, Surrey voters sure liked him this time around. Elford garnered 39,082 votes, second only to his Safe Surrey Coalition teammate Brenda Locke, who received 40,497 votes.
After being elected on Oct. 20, Elford spent the following week “cleaning everything up” in order to retire from his position as an environmental protection officer for the City of Vancouver after 40 years.
Elford said he decided to retire because he had the option to, and wanted to “give 100 per cent” to his new city council position. “And try to help people,” he added, noting his experience working for Vancouver city hall, and sitting on committees, will help him in his new role. “You can’t make change from the outside. Now I’m in a position to make change. It’s exciting.”
Elford said he and his Safe Surrey Coalition colleagues, who landed eight of the nine seats on Surrey council, have “some very bold and ambitious plans we’re going to have to be focused on, which is the SkyTrain issue, and to begin the implementation of our own police force.
“That’s going to take a fair bit of time for us.”
Elford said another big focus for him will be engaging the community. Having sat on the “advocate” side of the table, Elford said he hopes to bolster city hall’s relationships with community groups from his political seat.
For years, the longtime Newton resident served as a loud voice for his neighbourhood’s best interests. Particularly when it comes to crime.
In 2014, on behalf of the Newton Community Association, Elford called for more police boots on the ground on the heels of 53-year-old hockey mom Julie Paskall being killed after an attack outside the local hockey arena.
The goal was to “get a strong voice to council and get some changes.”
He’s also spoken out countless times, over several years, after relentless gunfire in Newton.
“Ironically, I went back into my files and when I ran (for council) in 1999, I challenged Marvin Hunt, saying ‘You’ve got to do something about this crime problem in Newton.’ So it’s been 20 years we’ve been campaigning here and living with this,” said Elford.
After being a voice for Newton for so long, how does Elford plan to put himself forth as a politician who will strive for improvement city-wide, and not just his home turf? “You get tagged as the Newton guy,” he chuckled, “but you can call me the community guy.”
Elford said he envisions a “safe, livable community,” and regardless of the neighbourhood “we all have similar problems. I believe it all starts with policing.”
It might seem curious that Elford was elected with a slate that intends to halt plans to built light rail in Surrey since Newton, which has long cried for transit investment, would have been home to the terminus station of the “L-Line,” near 72nd Avenue and King George Boulevard. But Elford said he just didn’t see the benefits of the proposed LRT line.
“I was concerned that (light rail) wouldn’t really make the necessary improvements that were being proposed,” said Elford. “As a commuter myself, I was looking at not much of a time savings.”
He said the city has a Newton Town Centre plan, and he’s “going to really work hard to get what was originally proposed there, and get some money into the town centre, instead of LRT.”
“We can do some things in the town centre and liven it up so that it’s visioned where maybe we have an area where we could draw people to. I think getting there by the rapid bus system we’re planning is equally effective,” he noted, adding that a later phase of Safe Surrey Coalition’s SkyTrain plan would go down King George to Newton.
“The people have spoken. They don’t want (LRT).”
To the community, Elford had this to say: “I certainly want people to approach us. People have the ideas. They have the intelligence, they have the solutions. We don’t have all the solutions, I don’t profess to know all the answers, but I know there’s good people out there that have good ideas.”
Elford lives in Newton with his wife. The two recently celebrated their 36-year anniversary. The couple raised four boys in Surrey, two who still reside in the city.