WATCH: Tributes pour in for former Oak Bay mayor and long-time councillor Nils Jensen. But Jensen’s legacy goes far beyond the boundaries of Oak Bay. Tess van Straaten reports.
Whether it was flexing his muscles before a tea cup race or racing on two wheels, Nils Jensen always had a twinkle in his eye and was quick to make a joke.
“He was an incredibly funny, engaging man,” says Michael McEvoy, who was Jensen’s close friend for two decades. “He’s one of these guys that comes into a room and just lights it up.”
Larger than life and never afraid to be silly, Jensen used humour, grace and gentle persuasion to get things done.
And over his long political career and legal career as a crown prosecutor, he got a lot done.
“Everything he did, he made it better — whether it was in Oak Bay, the Capital Regional District, the legal profession,” says McEvoy. “He made changes that benefited our local community and British Columbians ”
In addition to being a two-term Oak Bay mayor and a councillor for 22 years, Jensen also played a pivotal role in the Capital Regional District.
As chair of the water commission, he expanded the Sooke reservoir, ensuring we wouldn’t run out of water.
“It was a big expenditure to raise the reservoir and it wasn’t popular,” explains Saanich councillor and CRD director Susan Brice. “Also to his credit, maintained water restrictions, which were not particularly popular at the time but he has proven to be right.”
Jensen also chaired the CRD board in 2014 through a particularity turbulent time.
“He managed to cajole and bring to an end the interminable debate about sewage and sewage clean up in our region,” says McEvoy. “That was a huge task that required every bit of patience Nils had.”
But most of all, friends say Jensen’s legacy will be the incredible example he set.
“It’s really hard to express,” says an emotional Michelle Kirby. “The community has lost so much.”
The former Oak Bay councillor was mentored by Jensen, who quickly became a good friend.
“That kind of mentorship doesn’t happen every day,” says Kirby, tearing up. “You don’t find somebody that’s willing to do that every day and I’m really so grateful for that.”
Flags in Oak Bay and Victoria are flying at half-mast in his honour.
Fundraising efforts are also underway to purchase a statue that’s part of the Arts Alive initiative Jensen pioneered so there’s at least one piece of art in his name.
“We have been so well-served by a man who loved his work and did a wonderful job for the community,” says Brice. “It shows good people can accomplish good things.”
Nils Jensen died Sunday after a short battle with cancer.
He was 69 years old.
A memorial will be held Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Oak Bay High School Theatre.