There was one empty seat at the school board table on Tuesday night, but the spirit of the woman who filled it for 25 years permeated the room.
It was the first regular meeting following Trustee Martha Wiens' death on Sept. 23, and her colleagues openly grieved their loss — both as a friend and as a stalwart champion of Chilliwack's students.
At the outset of the meeting, board chair Silvia Dyck addressed Wiens' passing.
"We'd like to address the empty chair in the room. It's a difficult meeting for us all," she started. "Our school district is grieving the loss of a very wonderful trustee. In the school district, she was everybody's grandmother and we will carry on as best we can."
Several flags at Chilliwack schools and board offices have flown at half-mast over the past few weeks, to honour Wiens and her tireless efforts to visit and be a part of the schools' activities.
Trustee Heather Maahs broke down in tears recalling the memory of Wiens and her dedication to local schools, students, staff and families.
"She has left some very deep boots to fill," Maahs said
But the business of running the school district must carry on, and a byelection is coming up in the near future to fill her empty seat.
"We are compelled to do this today," Trustee Walt Krahn said, before making the motion to get the byelection process started. The issue was added to the agenda a late item, and Krahn noted they are "forced by legislation" to deal with it in a specific time frame. Carol Friesen from the City of Chilliwack has been named as the Chief Election Officer for the byelection.
The date for the byelection has been set for Dec. 12, with two chances for advance polling.
Friesen said nomination papers could be picked up starting yesterday, Oct. 8. Those need to be filed between Oct. 27 at 9 a.m. and Nov. 6 at 4 p.m.
At least one person has thrown their name out as a candidate. Angelina Gosselin has created a Facebook page for her campaign, noting she is aboriginal, a mother, and a longtime volunteer who has earned awards for her many years of volunteer service with the RCMP.