Jerry Oglow finds it easier to bestow the Freedom of the City of Armstrong upon deserving recipients than being bestowed the honour himself.
The former 12-year mayor became the 11th recipient of the Freedom of the City at a ceremony Friday at the Armstrong Curling Club.
“It’s truly an honour to receive the award,” said Oglow, 63. “The Freedom of the City is not something handed out that often. I personally handed out three of them (Betty Atkinson, 2000; Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 35, 2001; and Eric Hornby, 2005) as mayor. I enjoyed presenting them over the years.”
The Freedom of the City is the highest honour that can be bestowed by the City of Armstrong, and is a result of a unanimous decision by members of city council.
The honour was started in England in 1237 and arose from medieval practices of granting respected citizens freedom from serfdom from a feudal lord.
“It’s an old civic tradition, and I’m one of these people that have a strong belief in local government and the history and traditions that go with it,” said Oglow. “It made my day when city council, on behalf of the people, offered this presentation.”
Oglow arrived in Armstrong from Creston, where he worked for the local school board and held a similar post with the Armstrong School District.
He was elected to city council in November 1984 and served as a council for 12 years. He would spend another 12 years as the city’s mayor, retiring in 2008.
“That’s a quarter of the history of Armstrong,” said current mayor and longtime friend Chris Pieper, who read aloud a lengthy list of Oglow’s achievements in municipal politics.
He was very involved with UBC Okanagan, Interior Health, the municipal finance authority and many more committees over his nearly quarter-century of community service.
Oglow was responsible for the city’s solid waste treatment and irrigation system, and proud of the water supply strategy in Fortune Creek.
He was instrumental in the creation of the city’s 35-year capital infrastructure plan, the acquisition of land for Heaton Place, a 76-unit seniors retirement complex on the site of the old hospital, and worked with local MLAs and MPs to build the Nor-Val Sports Centre.
“Jerry always prided himself in being very organized and planning was very important to all aspects of his career,” said Pieper. “He could deliver a great speech and debate any topic because of his memory, research and organizational skills.”
It wasn’t just the city that Oglow was passionate about; it was the entire North Okanagan region.
That fact was verified by Patrick Nicol, longtime City of Vernon councillor who worked with Oglow on the board of the Regional District of North Okanagan.
“Jerry seemed to know there is no substitute for hard work and three qualities stood out: friendship, cooperation and loyalty,” said Nicol.
“Jerry recognized good things in others, concentrating on forward progress. I believe it is why Armstrong, as a city, has had a steady increasing level of achievement, rather than experiencing peaks and valleys.”
Added Pieper: “He was, and still is, a great leader. A lot of the city’s current assets are through his due diligence.”
The other recipients of Armstrong’s Freedom of the City include John Halpenny Wilson (1953), George William Game (1957), Albert Ivan Warner (1958), William Joseph Smith (1963), Dr. Roy Haugen (1971), John Murison Jamieson (1971) and John Blanchard Smith (1978).