Posted by Patrick Morris on Mar 07, 2018
Long-time Rotarian Colin Smith related his experiences in engineering, amongst other milestones.
Colin Smith will have been 41 years in Rotary as of June. In that time he has been President of Royal City (New Westminster) and Oak Bay (where he was also a charter member). He has survived three life-threatening injuries, as well stage 3 cancer.
Colin was born in Victoria. His father, from a long-time Victoria family, was a refrigeration specialist in the Royal Canadian Engineers at Work Point Barracks. His mother was born in Victoria to English parents who managed to arrive late for the Titanic’s only departure and so actually succeeded in making the crossing. After early days in Esquimalt the family lived in Penticton and Kelowna and settled in Vancouver for Colin’s Grade 4 year, where he lived through to graduating UBC. Those early days included deliveries by the horse-drawn milk float, ice deliveries to supply the pre-refrigerator iceboxes, and hog-fuel fed furnaces. It was in that period that Colin got shot in the eyebrow with an arrow, fired by one of his erstwhile friends. Having cruised through most of his schooling it finally came time to buckle down when he hit first year Engineering, but everything worked out. He graduated as a metallurgical engineer and married in his final year at UBC, in time to head for the desert.
Colin’s first job was at a Nevada copper mine. Within a year he had been promoted twice and was supervising three other engineers. This was where he learned to deal with 26 craft unions, a varied workforce, US labour law and regular disruptions. And he also learned to drive a locomotive, operate a mobile crane, and tap a furnace full of molten copper, amongst other things.
After Nevada, Colin worked at an open-pit molybdenum mine at Alice Arm (north of Prince Rupert) for two years. This is where he drove off the edge of the road after a weekend dance; the edge of the road was also the edge of the mountain and they rolled over twice before coming to rest. No fatalities. While at Alice Arm it was time to do some career management. Acceptances came from Penn State and Stanford so it was an easy choice to head to San Francisco. After a year at Stanford and enrolled for a second year he took a “summer job” back at Alice Arm. Upon arrival he learned he was the acting resident mine manager (which included being mayor, police chief, fire chief, school superintendent and tugboat master; such are the joys of the company town). After his second year at Stanford he moved on to Utah Mines (a forerunner of BHP International), where he got to buy the first company jet and then spend five years traveling the globe: Indonesia, Malaysia, and throughout Africa and South America. Including looking down the business end of an AK-47 while in Cote d’Ivoire. Meeting Saudi royalty. Being the only passenger in First Class.
From mining Colin moved on to spend 7 years in Campbell River as the owner of the Dolphins Resort and its fleet of 40 Boston Whalers. But running a salmon fishing resort didn’t stop him from consulting for BC mining companies, while also serving on fisheries advisory bodies and the Board of North Island College. And also participating in the Chamber of Commerce to the extent of being (at various times) President of the Campbell River, Vancouver Island, and BC Chambers.
From Campbell River Colin decamped with his new wife Bobbi to Victoria to join the provincial government as a deputy minister, first at Forests, later at Economic Development. And later to Vancouver at Forest Renewal BC, the BC Assets & Lands Corporation, the Millennium Skytrain project and the Convention Centre.
So for the last 10 years Colin has been enjoying being a grandfather, and been enjoying retirement (even if it does include wastewater treatment consulting).