Vancouver City Council honors outgoing Jeannes at meeting

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Outgoing Vancouver City Council members will have their names and years of service on engraved bricks in Propstra Square across from City Hall, a tradition that will start with Jeanne Harris and Jeanne Stewart.

Harris, 57, and Stewart, 67, were honored Monday at their second-to-last council meeting. Both lost bids for re-election, making for a bittersweet ceremony.

When Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt asked them to step down from the dais to receive gifts, Stewart responded dryly, "Is it something to drink?"

Leavitt gave them engraved vases and showed them bricks, bearing their names, that will be placed in Esther Short Park's Propstra Square.

Leavitt said councilors will receive bricks after they retire, which proved a poor word choice.

"Retirement? I don't think so," Stewart said.

Both were praised by Leavitt and members of the council for their service to the city. They thanked members of the staff, council and community and praised each other.

Stewart said she appreciated how Harris always saw the "big picture," while Harris admired Stewart for being so detail-oriented.

While they have opposing views on the controversial Columbia River Crossing — Harris supports it, Stewart opposes it — Harris said they have more in common than most people might think, and said there's value in the fact they have different styles and ideas.

"It might have been a little bit messy once in a while, but that's the way it's supposed to be," Harris said. Referencing the fact they have the same first name, she joked she got away with doing things "because nobody could remember which is which."

Harris said her years on the council have been "a dream come true," while Stewart called it "an honor and a privilege" to serve as an elected official.

Stewart was elected in 2001, '05 and '09.

In November, Stewart lost to Alishia Topper, 35, who works as senior director of development for the Fort Vancouver National Trust.

Councilor Bill Turlay, who often joined Stewart in the minority, said he's really going to miss her when certain issues come up for a vote. He, and others, encouraged her to stay active in the community.

"Your heart is with the people," Turlay said.

In 1997, Harris was appointed to serve in a non-voting capacity to represent newly annexed residents in east Vancouver. She ran for her first four-year term that year, and was re-elected in 2001, '05 and '09.

This year, she drew four opponents and failed to advance from the August primary.

Her seat will be filled by Anne McEnerny-Ogle, 60, a retired math teacher and neighborhood leader.

In a video interview filmed a few years ago that was shown Monday, Harris said the objective has always been to determine, "Where are we going and how do we get there?"

Leavitt said a lot of progress has been made in the past decade.

"You two have played a very important role," he said. "You'll both be dearly missed from this council."

The council's last meeting of the year will be Dec. 16.