Being active in his community has been a way of life for Ross Forrest, as it was for his parents. For almost all of his 57 years, Forrest has been proud to call Lake Cowichan home – a small community of about 3,000 people on Vancouver Island.
“I’ve lived in my community my whole life and I really care about my community,” says Forrest, who has been Mayor of Lake Cowichan for the past 4 ½ years. “It’s a really beautiful area.”
Forrest spent much of this working life – about 27 years – working in the logging industry. Working his way through various jobs he eventually became a landing bucker (cutting logs to the needed length after being felled). But it was a career many told him he to stay away from.
“When I was four years old I lost my leg in an accident, but like I said I was four so I grew up with that,” says Forrest. “Being in the logging industry, a lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I was determined to do it, so I did.”
That determination also helped Forrest fill his life with sports, playing slo-pitch and hockey for the local team - the Apollos (named in honour of Dr. William Carpentier, who served as the flight surgeon for the first manned mission to land on the moon – Apollo 11 – in 1969, and who grew up in Lake Cowichan).
“In those days they didn’t have sports for disabilities, so I played with everybody else,” says Forrest. “When I finished up playing on my team, I ended up coaching it, managing it, and driving the bus and everything else. So I was with that team for roughly 35 years.”
It was this love of sports that help lead Forrest to a new career, and the opportunity to give back to his community. With the downturn of the logging industry and almost three decades of a physically demanding job, Forrest was ready to move on.
“I was very fortunate in 2006 to get a refrigeration ticket. I got hired on as an icemaker in North Cowichan – I love it, it’s a great job,” says Forrest, who splits his work time at the arena and in the municipality’s parks as a member for CUPE 358. “I love sports so it was a good fit for me.”
With his new job in nearby North Cowichan, and no longer bound for logging camps, Forrest found himself with a lot more time at home. This spurred him on to run for Mayor of Lake Cowichan.
On top of his full-time job, Forrest’s mayoral duties add another 20-30 hours of work to his average week. With his councillors, Forrest says they are involved with pretty much everything going on in the community.
“I like to keep busy. When I do have nights off, when I don’t have any meetings or events, I’m quite bored,” says Forrest. “It’s become a way of life – running right out the door after dinner. I really do enjoy it.”
Forrest says he would like to run for one more term, giving himself a chance to see through some of the projects his council has started – such as a downtown revitalization and a new library. “My favorite part is seeing the progress we’ve made in our community.”
Forrest gives much of the credit for the progress to his community’s long tradition of volunteerism. “It’s always been a community that’s had a lot of pride. No one is every ashamed to tell others they come from Lake Cowichan – we’re all proud growing up here,” says Forrest.