Coleman receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Mike Coleman, left, accepts his Freeman of the City of Duncan honour in 2011. - Peter W. Rusland/file
Mike Coleman, left, accepts his Freeman of the City of Duncan honour in 2011.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

Mike Coleman has done it all in his lifetime, virtually leaving no stone unturned in service to his community.

For going above and beyond the call of duty, Coleman, 70, is a rather unsurprising choice as the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s lifetime achievement recipient to be presented during the 2014 Black Tie Awards on April 5.

“I was delighted and taken aback actually when it came by way of giving me the information I’d been granted this honour,’’ said Coleman.

The longest-serving City of Duncan Mayor, who was made a Freeman of the City in 2011, is quick to pass on accolades for his award to others.

“It’s really a comment on all the really good people in the community,’’ he said. “I’m just doing what I thought was the right thing.’’

“There is only one Mike Coleman,’’ said Chamber President George Gates. “Few have done more to shape our community.’’

Besides his well-known civic duties, Coleman participated in the founding of Family Life, Big Brothers, Cowichan United Way, Hiiye Yu Lelum House of Friendship, Community Futures, Legal Aid, the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation, the Cowichan Foundation and more.

“There was a great number of people who were involved in the start-up of those things,’’ Coleman said. “I was fortunate to be involved in those things.’’

A long-time dedication to his law practice resulted in a series of other appointments, including his Queen’s Counsel designation in 2010. He’s always loved his work.

“This is the kind of thing that keeps you young,’’ Coleman said.

But a case might actually be made for him to retire soon. People ask him about it all the time, he said, and “I’m beginning to think about it.’’

Civic service has been complemented as a member of the national board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the national voice of municipal government.

The announcement of Coleman’s award made him think about many of the valley’s pioneers, who carved a trail for him to follow — people like Art Mann, Owen Gloster and Mary Stone, among so many others.

“There were just a phenomenal number of people who were positive in the community,’’ he said.

Born in Vancouver and raised in Victoria, Duncan and Regina as his family moved across the country, Coleman attended Upper Canada College for secondary school and completed law studies at the University of B.C.

When he was called to the bar in 1969, Coleman pursued and accepted a position in Duncan. He worked for Green & Company from 1969 to 1971 when he established his own firm, Coleman & LaCroix.

The firm — now known as Coleman, Fraser, Whittome, Lehan and Coleman — has been in practice for 45 years that overlapped his long tenure as mayor.

“It’s a matter of having your own set of priorities — having really good staff in the (law) office and in City Hall,’’ said Coleman. “If you like the community service, it’s not hard at all.’’

During his time in office, Coleman helped develop Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan campus, develop Duncan City Square, made the relationship with Cowichan Tribes a priority, helped bring the 2008 North American Indigenous Games to the valley and forged links with Duncan’s sister cities Meru, Kenya and Montmagny, Quebec.

Coleman and wife Barbara are avid travellers. They have three adult sons — Cowichan Secondary School principal Charlie and Mike's law partner Jamie, as well as Ted, who lives on the Lower Mainland.

Coleman’s jack-of-all-trades significance also includes a love of writing — specifically poetry.

“To be a poet and politician may be impossible,’’ he mused in the poem To Be A Poet.

But he managed to fuse the two together and so many other things for the betterment of the community.

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