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'Mayor of Fleetwood' honoured

Rick Hart named Surrey’s Good Citizen of the year.
Rick Hart is Surrey's Good Citizen for 2016

The man often called the “Mayor of Fleetwood” has been given Surrey’s Good Citizen Award for 2016.

Rick Hart, a long-time community activist and president of the Fleetwood Community Association, was honoured at a ceremony on Wednesday night.

Hart has long been the defender of all things Fleetwood, and in his many years as head of the area’s community association, developed a unique style for the job.

Hart is not easily rattled and when facing Surrey council about a problematic project planned for the community, he seldom rests at telling council it is simply not welcome.

He outlines what form it has to take, how much parking is required, and what setbacks are needed in order for it to be acceptable to the community.

Hart is also a visionary who often sees well-ahead of time when public policy needed adjustment.

In Surrey’s eighth year of a property tax freeze, Hart saw that the city would need more income to pay for some of the services required.

“It’s starting to fracture... I think... we’ve gone too far,” Hart told The Leader in 2001, adding Surrey residents are often left uninformed about the impacts of the popular policy. “The public isn’t told what they’re going to lose.”

He also said the city continued to generate revenues through user fees and higher utility fees – other words, he said, through taxes.

“What is a tax?” Hart asked. “You can call it a different name. It still comes out of your pocket.”

Fifteen years later, civic politicians publicly decried the tax freeze, saying it had put them in an untenable fiscal situation.

In 2005, Hart ran as an independent for city council. He challenged the current administration for not matching development with supporting infrastructure.

He pointed to an 81-storey highrise proposal as an example.

“Super-sizing is not a healthy thing,” Hart said. “I don’t have a problem doing these things, but where’s the rest of it?”

He wanted to see roads and other critical infrastructure in place before projects were given approval.

He also cited a lack of social services and an unhealthy environment at city hall as his other key concerns.

While he fought for issues city-wide, his heart belonged to Fleetwood.

One of his cause celebres was to lobby for a statue of war veteran Lance Cpl. Thomas Fleetwood, who the community is named for. It finally arrived in 2008.

“This project has been a vision of our association for the past 10 years and would not have been possible without the support of the province and the city,” Hart said at the time.

“It will bring together a legacy to preserve the history of the past and add vitality and cultural resonance to urban planning by celebrating the community’s heritage and honouring a man who gave his life for Canada’s freedom in the First World War.”

Hart is currently a commissioner on the city’s Heritage Advisory Commission, a member of Light Rail Links Coalition, a member of the Fleetwood Business Improvement Association Organizing Committee and president of the Fleetwood Community Association.

He had previously been deputy chair of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission, the Citizens Advisory Committee for West Clayton NCP, Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archive Capital Campaign Team and the Surrey Association of Sustainable Communities.

“As an active community advocate and leader for the past 25 years, Rick Hart is a most deserving winner of this year’s Good Citizen Award,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “While Rick is known affectionately as Mr. Fleetwood for all the tremendous work he has done for that community, his contributions extend to our city as a whole. Rick’s selfless dedication has made our city a better place to live and work for all.”

Accepting the award for Hart, who is coping with health issues, was long-time politician and community worker Penny Priddy.