Henry Braun, Abbotsford’s outgoing mayor, was given a gift that took a community to create on Monday night.
The MCC Quilters stitched together a blanket with special meaning for him and his wife, Velma. It was handed over to them as part of a special farewell ceremony, held after the regular council meeting in Matsqui Centennial Auditorium.
It was the last regular meeting for Braun and councillors Brenda Falk and Sandy Blue.
The blanket is adorned with the city’s coat of arms in the centre and includes two bars of the city’s tartan, which also runs along the border of the quilt. It was presented by Christine Wiebe, who explained the many groups and people who combined their talents to design and create the gift.
The coat of arms alone has over 160,000 machine stitches, and the rest of the quilt is hand-sewn.
It was just one special farewell in an evening of kind words, hugs, gifts and even a surprise performance. One of Braun’s favourite songs is by Rosemary Siemens. She came on stage with a part of her band, and they performed Have a Little Faith for the crowd.
In his farewell speech, Braun acknowledged his faith and said it helped him through what were some of his “most difficult and challenging days” during the floods last November.
Even before the meeting started, Tim McGraw’s Stay Humble and Kind played over the loudspeaker in the auditorium.
“That’s a song I listened to while I was out driving at 2 and 3 in the morning during the floods,” he told the crowd as council settled in for its last official business.
“Those first 36 days responding to the flood were some of the most difficult and challenging days I’ve personally ever experienced. But they were also some of the most heartwarming,” he said during his farewell speech. “The outreach and support from our local community organizations, service groups and faith communities was amazing.”
He saw everyone helping each other in a time when everyone needed help.
“It was all a testament to the wonderful, caring, giving and resilient people who make up this great city. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more proud than I did during that time.”
Braun also acknowledged that this council was able to improve the financial position of the city.
“We worked hard to improve the financial position of the city, creating a 25-year financial plan, looking at areas to tighten or re-jig expenditures, and identifying risks and opportunities to maximize revenue and replenish our reserves,” he said.
“A little over a decade ago our city had a net financial position that was $17 million in the red. I’m pleased to say that we finished the 2021 fiscal year with $349 million in the black,” he added, saying the city is on track to see the number increase this year.
Incoming mayor and current councillor Ross Siemens spoke about Braun, Blue and Falk.
Siemens was elected on Oct. 15, beating out three other candidates, and will be sworn in at an upcoming meeting.
He thanked Braun for his 11 years of service on council, and “strong, authentic and unfailing leadership to us all.”
“As our city’s mayor, you have truly become the north star of our community; a constant and reliable guide who has held us through some extraordinary times,” Siemens said.
Braun had announced on June 13 that he wouldn’t be running for re-election, after two terms as mayor. At the time, he had said the decision came after “deep and detailed consideration,” leaving him with mixed emotions.
His last day as mayor will be Nov. 7.
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