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Long-time Strathcona Regional District director Jim Abram not seeking re-election

Abram citing health concerns, stress as reasons to step back after 35 years on job
Jim Abram, pictured in 2017, is stepping back from his long-time role as Discovery Islands, Mainland Inlets director for the Strathcona Regional District. File photo

Long-time Strathcona Regional District director for the Discovery Island and Mainland Inlets director Jim Abram will not be running again in this fall’s municipal election, but he says he’s not retiring either.

Abram announced his intention to not run in the election in the Discovery Islander, a Quadra-based newspaper, saying that the decision came after he received advice from two doctors that the stress of the position would be hazardous for his health.

“I decided not to run again based on the advice of two professionals that I respect very much. One of them is my local physician and one of them is a world-renowned electro-cardiologist in Victoria. Both of them have advised me that the stress that I have been under for the last year — which has gone on for many years — is catching up to me,” Abram said. “The only way that I’m going to be able to remove that stress, which is basically caused by being the regional director and dealing with the regional district. The only way that I can remove that stress is to step down from the position.”

“I was given two choices: live or die. I have to laugh, but at the same time it’s not at all funny,” he said. “It’s the last thing in the world I wanted to do.”

Abram has been the director for the Quadra Island area, which includes other Discovery Islands and extends up into the adjacent mainland of the regional district in its current iteration, since before there was a Strathcona Regional District. He first took office in 1988 for the then-Comox Strathcona Regional District, at the same time he was working as a lighthouse keeper, a position he kept up until 2003. Now in his 35th year in the position, Abram has been seeking treatment for atrial fibrillation, as well as radiation treatment in Victoria, according to his report in the Discovery Islander.

”This last year has been a very, very tough year in dealing with changes and different ways of doing business at the board and staff level. Hence the increase in stress,” Abram said. “Prior to that, it was manageable, now it’s not, and now it’s time to go.”

That being said, he is still planning on being active in Quadra Island business.

“I’m not going anywhere. People keep talking about it as retirement. This isn’t retirement. This is forced not running. If it was up to me and I knew that there wasn’t danger, I would be running, absolutely. I love it,” he said. “Right now I have to back up. I’m not going anywhere, I’m still here. I’m sure I’ll still be involved in political process, activism, other government departments, processes. I don’t intend to leave what I’ve worked so hard to achieve unattended.”

Two candidates have now announced their intention to run for Area C director. Abram, who said his main priorities over the past three decades have been local control of local issues and community involvement in public processes, hopes that a few more people join the race.

“I had hoped that when I announced that I was not running that more people would step up because they knew they would be running against other unexperienced candidates and that we would have more involvement in the public process,” he said.

Abram is currently involved in an investigation about director meeting pay claims, but said that the issue had nothing to do with his decision to not run.

“That is absolutely untrue, it has nothing to do with it,” he said. “I’m going through that with the board systematically and we’re moving right along. I don’t think there’ll be any problem there and it certainly had nothing to do with my leaving office.”

One thing is for sure, in November Jim Abram will have one of his first days off in a very long time. While he isn’t planning on taking a vacation, maybe his phone will ring a little bit less.

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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