Blacks Harbour - Mayor Ken Hooper is looking forward to being a private citizen. "I will miss it," he says, referring to the position he has held for eighteen years. However, Ken has been troubled by ill health in recent years - a nagging back injury in particular that causes much pain.
Ken Hooper was born April 4, 1943 in Back Bay, NB, the fourth of six boys. From an early age he was involved in sports - basketball, hockey and baseball. "I don't want to boast," he says, "but I was a pretty good basketball player." As a basketball player Ken was part of the New Brunswick Intermediate 'B' basketball team that won the provincial crown in 1964. Ken was a pretty good baseball player too it seems. Kenny, as he is known to his friends - and he has many - was a player on the New Brunswick Champion teams of 1977 and 78. He was a tenacious competitor. He lost several fingers in an industrial accident in February one year and was back playing baseball by May of the same year. Ken played competitively until he was forty years of age.
BRUNSWICKS BALL TEAM (1977)
Back Row (l to r): Raymond Justason, Brian Nixon, Gerald McGarrigle, Ken Hooper, Gary Wakefield, Allen Patterson, Stewart Guptill and Hazen Wilcox.
Front Row (l to r): Frank McGarrigle, Colin Dick, Mark Thompson (batboy), Raymond Breau, Geoy Thompson, Billy Justason and Dennis Belliveau.
Perhaps it was those finely honed competitive skills that made Ken Hooper so adept in the political arena. For eighteen years he has remained virtually unchallenged as mayor and, if not for ill health, would probably have challenged successfully for the May 10th seat. Ken's hero was John Diefenbaker> "I've always admired that man," he says. "He was a great leader and a great Canadian."
Referring to the start of his own career Ken says "...I always had aspirations." That desire took root with a successful run for Blacks Harbour Village Council in 1980. In 1983 he re-offered successfully and, when Mr. Nason retired from the Mayor's chair in 1986 Ken ran successfully. He has never looked back - serving six terms as mayor.
"I believe it is very important that you serve on council first before offering for Mayor," says Ken. "The first three (now four) years is a learning experience.
The highlights of Ken's career are many. "I've meet lots of people," Ken says. "I met John Turner when he was Prime Minister and Prime Minister Kim Campbell twice. " Ken is very proud of getting the new Little League Ball field completed with very little money required from private citizens. "We received corporate sponsorship and government help, " he says, "I had to knock on a lot of doors." Ken is pleased that the Fire Department has a new building and that the construction of the Municipal Building is complete. "We also lobbied hard for the ferry terminal," he says. The terminal is slated for construction over the next year and a half.
Municipal Office Opening (April 24, 2004).
Ken acknowledges strong family support throughout his political life. His wife Carolyn has been 'very supportive' as well as his son, Greg.
Some of Ken's other achievements have included serving as
Zone Chairman of the New Brunswick Umpire's Association. He was a founding
member of the Charlotte County Community Futures Association and now serves on
its successor, the Charlotte County Business Development Center.
Ken says he has really enjoyed working with the people. He has always tried to be approachable - even to the point of taking phone calls at two in the morning. "When you live in a small community you have to expect that." he says. Ken acknowledges that he always got back to people with their concerns. "I might not have the answer for them they wanted, " he says, "but I got back to them."
The biggest disappointment of Ken's career occurred in 1992 when the Liberal government announced the closure of the Fundy Health center. More than one thousand people protested the action at Fundy High School but Ken states that it was a 'waste of time.' "The decision was already made," he says. Ken is lobbying now to prevent the closure of the surgery unit at the Charlotte County Hospital, maintaining that this will not be a government decision but a Region Two decision.
"Two years ago the Atlantic Health Sciences took away our twenty four hour hospital hours with no notice," he says. "Two years ago we lost obstetricians in St. Stephen." Mayor Hooper is troubled by this continuing trend to centralize services and leave the rural communities out of the health equation.
Ken Hooper may be nearly finished his last term as mayor but he is still fighting for the people of Blacks Harbour and Charlotte County. While his mayoralty has had its frustrations, particularly hospital issues, he is still leaving with the knowledge that, as with baseball, he has always been a fighter and has best. Homeport News wishes May Ken Hooper a happy retirement from politics and thanks him for his years of service to Blacks Harbour.
SOURCE: Homeport News (May 7, 2004 (Issue 2, Volume 1)) - written by
Ken Hooper, his wife Carolyn and grandson James Daniel (JD) (April 24, 2004)
Photo by Sari D. Justason.