Longtime school trustee mourned in Chilliwack

Long time Chilliwack school trustee Martha Wiens has passed away.

Long time Chilliwack school trustee Martha Wiens has passed away.

Wiens had been a trustee for more than two decades, and was a frequent visitor to the schools where she acted as a liaison for the board.

She was first elected in the Nov. 17, 1990 election, narrowly beating future Mayor Sharon Gaetz. The election results were close enough for a recount, but Wiens won by a mere 12 votes. In that same election, John Les had been voted in as mayor, and Clint Hames as councillor.

Prior to her work as a trustee, Wiens had been the returning officer for the Chilliwack-Kent electoral district.

In her most recent term as trustee, Wiens was liaison at McCammon, F.G. Leary, Bernard, and East Chilliwack elementary schools. She sat on the budget committee and audit committee.

The school board released a statement on Thursday morning.

“It is with sadness that we share the news that one of our long serving trustees, Martha Wiens, passed away peacefully last evening, surrounded by family. Martha was a dedicated and valued member of our Board of Education, who tirelessly gave of herself and her time, commitment and energy, in support of students in the district. We will miss Martha. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Martha’s family and friends and we join them in mourning.”

The board noted there will be a service to honour Wiens, with details to come in the near future.

Byelection likely

The board won’t have long to mourn the loss of their colleague. According to the school act, Wiens’ passing will trigger the need for a by-election.

With so much time left in this term, the board is mandated to fill the now-vacant position. Section 36 of the school act spells out the process for filling board vacancies, and orders boards to appoint a chief election officer within 30 days, or to notify the municipal council to do the same.

The election day must be set for no later than 80 days after the appointment of that officer. If no by-election is held, the minister of education can fill appoint a trustee.

The last school trustee by-election was held in Chilliwack in 2013, when trustee Louise Piper resigned following an extended medical leave.

At that time, the by-election was estimated to cost the school board about $50,000.

Dan Coulter earned his place on the board, although voter turnout was dismal. Six candidates threw their hat in the ring, but only 2.3 per cent of eligible voters showed up at the polls.

Chilliwack school board has not yet announced a timeline for a by-election.