This is seventh in a series of profiles of Surrey city councillors elected on Oct. 15.
In the span of four years, Doug Elford has transitioned from a Newton-focused community advocate to second-term Surrey city councillor now in opposition, following a first term with the ruling Safe Surrey Coalition.
Re-elected in October, Elford earned 24,658 votes, seventh among the 56 council candidates.
First voted to Surrey City Hall in 2018, the retired City of Vancouver employee says he always planned to run again in 2022.
“Oh yes, because we had a few things we needed to accomplish, and to me we really have to have people who are focused on the future of Surrey,” Elford said. “Too many times short-term decisions are made not in the best interests of the city. We’re going to be the biggest city in B.C, and we have to start acting like it. There’s so much NIMBYism and people afraid of change, and we need people in (city hall) to make bold decisions.”
In his first term on city council, Elford dutifully sided with Mayor Doug McCallum’s slate on the vast majority of votes. Now he’s an opposition voice on the council, with power held by Mayor Brenda Locke’s Surrey Connect team of five.
“I’ve always been a collaborative guy, and now you have to work a lot harder to accomplish things, build relationships and put trust in people, and I don’t think that’s going to be a problem because it’s a pretty good group of people (on council),” Elford observed.
Being on the “other side” is more of a challenge, he conceded, but Elford says he’s there to help provide balance now.
“It’s different, and sometimes you have to be the barking dog, which I’m not entirely comfortable with, but that’s politics,” he elaborated. “You have to learn that it’s not personal, and sometimes people take it too personal, and that’s really hard. I’ve always taken that position, but it’s been challenging over time because you certainly get painted a different way sometimes, publicly. And you know, like, I’m not the monster you think I am, right? Let’s have a sit-down, a beer or a coffee and talk about it, then people will see that I’m not the guy that’s portrayed. That’s the challenge in this.”
In Vancouver, Elford worked as an environmental protection officer and in other jobs before retiring in the fall of 2018 to focus on his duties at Surrey City Hall.
“It was a tremendous learning experience,” he says of his first term, following failed bids for election in 1999 and 2011.
“I had 40 years of experience at the City of Vancouver and I have a deep background and understanding about how municipalities work and function, but even then, there’s a tremendous amount to learn – it’s like drinking out of a firehose, as people say. You learn things every day, and it’s quite fascinating to be in this type of role. I really enjoy it.”
Rode down to Cloverdale Market Days. Good stuff here. Come and check it out. pic.twitter.com/27XkW2TvEF
— Doug Elford (@delford) July 23, 2022
A baseball fan who commutes on his electric bicycle when he can, Elford considers himself “just a normal Surrey dude” who moved to the city in 1986 to raise a family of four boys with his wife, first at a home in Boundary Park, then in Newton.
“I like to have a beer and watch the hockey game, right,” he said with a laugh. “That’s me. I’m not a guy who likes the galas, all that, with the same people. That’s not me. I’m in the inner-city, as I call Newton, and I like it. It’s never boring, that’s for sure.”
The area’s crime problems triggered something in Elford years ago, and with the Newton Community Association he called for more police boots on the ground following the 2014 death of Julie Paskall, a mother attacked and killed outside the local arena.
“We had other sensational crimes, with Devon Allaire-Bell beaten to death, Serena Vermeersch murdered by that guy on the lam, all in Newton, and even at the (baseball) park we had problems,” recalled Elford, who called for a municipal police force in Surrey years before the transition from the RCMP gained steam in 2018.
Looking back, Elford says politics has long been in his blood. An ancestor was an alderman in Victoria in 1902, and an aunt served as mayor of Oak Bay in the 1970s.
“So people ask, and yeah it’s in the blood – you can’t help yourself sometimes,” he said.
“Working in a municipality like I have for many years and seeing how things work, you know that you have to be in a position to make change to get anything done. If you want to accomplish anything, you have to be in a chair, run for office. You can’t just stand on a soapbox. Being in the community, you can be a barking dog but that doesn’t get you anything, right. That’s why I decided to get involved in civic politics.… It took time for me to climb the ladder, as they say.”
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter