by Sarah Lord on Tuesday August 03 2021
There will be a different feel on the streets of Nelson after City Bylaw Officer Fred Thomson recently retired after 31 years walking the beat in the Heritage City.
Raised in Langley on a farm, Thomson moved to Nakusp during high school.
Following graduation, he made his way to Nelson, where he worked in sports retail briefly before joining the city workforce in 1987 as an ice maker at the old Civic Centre.
Thomson then took a janitorial job before being hired as a Bylaw Officer in 1990.
At that time Thomson had an office based in the old Nelson City Hall. The Bylaw Enforcement Department moved into the Nelson Police Department building during the early 1990s.
Outside of work, Thomson enjoys many sports including golf and especially curling, where he represented BC at the Brier and the BC Seniors Championships.
Friday, July 30th was Thomson's last day on the job. He shared the ups and downs and what these decades of work meant for him.
How did you become a Bylaw Officer?
My wife Nora and I had just had a baby daughter, so I was looking for a Monday to Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. job and a Bylaw job was posted with those hours. I thought I would try it for a year and then hopefully move into another job within the City of Nelson. Here I am 31 years later.
How are you celebrating your retirement?
I am working my last day putting in a full shift, maybe helping to solve an issue or two and hopefully not creating any (laughs).
What do you love most about Nelson?
Hands down, it's the people. We have such a wonderful community in many ways, whether it’s arts, sports, spirituality, volunteerism, businesses and their owners and staff. With our four seasons, it's truly paradise.
I love to see my daughter, who lives in Nelson, especially when I bring her dinner once or twice a week. I've spent a lot of time in the last ten years in Spokane, Wash., with my partner Deb. We plan on retiring together here in Nelson as she has fallen in love with the city and the people.
How have you seen Nelson change over time?
It seems to roll with the punches from a company town, historic town, to arts and tech town. I believe we have a high quality of life. It's important to most folks to spend time with families and friends in amazing natural beauty. The traffic has gotten so busy since I started. Back in the day, we had parallel parking everywhere and very little angle parking.
What was the best thing about working as a Bylaw Officer withthe City of Nelson?
Showing young children how parking metres work and letting them write the odd ticket. I helped some of them learn their ABCs by letting them press the keys on the handheld.
I always liked helping to solve neighbourhood issues and make everyone a little happy, but of course, no one is ever 100% happy. There were always those dreaded parking tickets. It was always nice when I talked it over with the owner, and they understood and went along their way with a laugh and the ticket.
What was your most memorable moment on the job?
A foot chase after a bank robber in 2014 was crazy. I was in the Herridge Lane alley when a call came over the radio about the Nelson and District Credit Union being robbed. Nelson Police Department members were arriving on the scene. I ran to the Superior Lighting building so if the bad guy came across Front Street, I may see him. I saw a person matching the description crossing the tracks. I radioed
that I had a visual. The guy looked back at me, and I yelled, "Stop!" He turned and ran, and for some crazy reason, I ran down the steep bank and chased him towards the Wholesale Club. It was a dumb idea as he had a gun. I was 20 feet from him when he jumped into a car in the parking lot and sped off. I described the vehicle over the radio, and my buddy Constable Slomba picked up the vehicle pursuit.
What will you miss most about patrolling the streets of Nelson?
Saying hello, morning, and afternoon to people doing commerce in the city. Chatting with business owners and staff each day. I'll miss working with Police Officers who always supported us if needed and offered encouraging words.
What is the one thing you won't miss?
Calls from folks who wanted you to fix their issues and you couldn't help them. Sometimes I felt that a civil conversation across the fence between neighbours would go a long way to resolving issues.
What are you most looking forward to in your retirement?
Becoming a little anonymous. Away from work in my private time, some folks wanted to go on about a ticket or an issue. It was okay to talk shop to a point but not for an extended time. Maybe it comes with the territory.
I never thought I would make a career Bylaw officer, but 31 years later, with so much support from co-workers, citizens, businesses, and the Nelson Police department, it was fun and enjoyable. Over the years, a classic line from folks would be "Get a real job." Well, I can tell you it was a real job, it was a fun job, a clean job, a job that no two days were ever alike. I would recommend it to anyone.
The photo Bylaw Officer Fred Thomson was taken on the first day of work back in 1990. — Submitted