When most people assume public office, they do the normal thing and move into their predecessor's office. A box of family pictures is brought in, perhaps some memorabilia - things to make it seem more like home.
Not Julian Sadlowski.
When elected mayor of North Battleford in the fall of 2003, the last thing he wanted was to be cooped up in the mayor's office. As far as offices go, it was a nice, spacious one, adjacent to the city manager's and council chambers. The mayor would traditionally don his chains of office in there and then enter the council chamber to begin the meeting. Along with the administrative secretary, only three people worked on that floor, and he would have been one of them.
For Julian, that was way too aloof, way too detached for his liking. He didn't want a swanky office. His first order of business was to re-arrange the bullpen of the main floor, and establish a cubicle for himself right smack dab in the centre, just a few yards from the main counter, and at the front of the bullpen.
It was a cubicle in that it had one short wall, but otherwise nothing else to hide behind. Nearly all the business this mayor would do, would be done in the open.
Julian Sadlowski passed away on April 27.
Few people, if any, had the sort of relationship I had with this good man. He was a two-term mayor, and I was the city hall reporter for the Battlefords News-Optimist for all of his first term and much of the second. Prior to that, he had been a long-term councillor.
About once a month or so I would park my butt in a chair next to his cubicle, and we would just talk, generally for an hour. I would glean some stories or story ideas, and often provide a bit of feedback on what was going on in the community and the things he was thinking about. It wasn't hard to know what those things were, either. They were right there on his wall, behind his desk.
A retired school teacher and principal, he was also quite the artist. His wall would be covered with intricate posters illustrating all his policy initiatives - from the proposed Highgate Dam, to a north-south corridor. Every few months, the posters would be updated as progress was made.
Some mayors are caretakers, but not Julian. An awful lot was accomplished under his tenure. The city pulled itself back together from the 2001 water crisis that saw thousands sickened by cryptosporidium, myself included. That meant very expensive infrastructure projects, building a new sewage treatment plant, and improvements to the water treatment system.
The fire service saw almost its entire fleet renewed, although the mayor would go at it hammer-and-tongs with the late fire chief of the time, trying to reduce expenditures. The fire chief eventually got his way on most things, however.
At budget time, he always tried to keep "those on fixed incomes" in mind. I can't remember how many times he spoke of the need to keeps taxes in line so as to not make it hard on those on fixed incomes, i.e. seniors.
Julian had two key concepts in his mind at all times: how can the city help youth, and how can it build closer ties with the local Aboriginal community? He struck two committees on those areas, both of which eventually faltered, but he tried. On the second front especially, the man tried harder than anyone else I have seen.
The biggest initiative was the multiplex, which has since taken on the name of Credit Union CU Plex. While construction of the facility is now underway, nearly all of Julian's two terms were spent laying the foundations for that project. The initial work began shortly into his first term.
Some ideas didn't fly. Julian wanted to land a uranium processing plant for North Battleford. He was supportive of the idea to build a massive earthen dam just six miles northwest of the city, on the North Saskatchewan River. And he took it upon himself to develop the little used, poorly maintained Highway 4 into a north-south trade corridor all the way into the United States.
That last notion was pretty far-fetched, in my opinion, which I was more than happy to share with him. But he was undeterred, and for good reason. That's because the man was one of the driving forces behind the eventual twinning of the Yellowhead Highway all the way from Lloydminster to Saskatoon.
People today may not realize that stretch used to be as deadly as the road to Fort McMurray, with frequent head-on collisions. Many lives have been saved because Julian fought tenaciously to get that project done.
The man was a loving husband, and he often spoke to me of how proud he was of his grandchildren, whom he would frequently drive to swimming lessons in his little Ford Ranger. Some mayors would prefer a Cadillac, but Julian repainted his Ranger.
Councillor Grace Lang told me, "He was a good man, and had a very big heart. What he said is what you got with him."
I couldn't agree more. I've dealt with a lot of politicians in my day, but few who have been as genuine as Julian Sadlowski.
He will be missed.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at brian.zinc...@sasktel.net