Fifty years of public service

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Public Service Week, celebrated annually the third week of June, was established in 1992 as an opportunity to recognize and thank BC Public Service employees. It was the perfect time for the Court to pay tribute to Mike Smith, whose career with the BC government has spanned 50 years, over 30 of those with the Provincial Court.

“Remember that the mantle of leadership is not the cloak of comfort, but the robe of responsibility. Accountability is not for the intention but for the deed. You must continue to choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.” ― Thomas S. Monson

Mike Smith’s career with the BC government has spanned five decades in which he’s worked for all three branches of government: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

But as the Court’s Executive Director of Organizational Services, Ryan Mahar, worked with Julie Crichton, Judicial Coordinator at the Office of the Chief Judge (OCJ), to prepare this tribute their research yielded a considerable lack of detailed information – this man was a ghost on paper!

They reached out to Mike to ask if he’d fill in the considerable blanks. It took some persuasion. He’s not one who likes this kind of thing, being a little uncomfortable with special recognition. However, he agreed to share from memory and make educated guesses about timelines rather than provide a stale, date-to-date chronology of how his career unfolded.

Mike began his career in government in 1972, working in the main parliament buildings in Victoria, at a time when the disco genre of dance music and subculture emerged from the USA’s urban nightlife scene. Rod Stewart released his album Never a Dull Moment; The Rolling Stones released Exile on Main St before opening their North American tour in Vancouver. Art imitating life and things to come for Mike?

In 1977 Mike transferred to Vancouver to take up the role of Manager of Finance for the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing before moving on to become Manager of Support Services for the new Vancouver Pre-trial Services Centre. A theme of leadership in innovation appeared to be emerging.

And then the Court got him.

Mike moved into Human Resources as a Personnel Officer serving the Provincial Court and Court Services before transitioning to Operations Manager at the OCJ. During his time with the Provincial Court, Mike has worked for seven Chief Judges starting with Chief Judge Diebolt.

His introduction to the Court got off to an inauspicious start in 1989. New to the Court and with Judge Diebolt newly appointed as Chief Judge, on his first day Mike kept a man waiting outside the office door until someone realized it was the new Chief Judge whose entrance he was barring. Mike reports that Chief Judge Diebolt laughed about it later, but at the time he thought his tenure at the Office of the Chief Judge might be a short one. As it turns out, it was a career spanning more than 30 years.

Continuing his upward trajectory, Mike spent four years as Manager for Court Services at the Vancouver criminal courthouse at 222 Main Street. Then an unexpected vacancy opened at the OCJ and Mike found himself on the phone with then Chief Judge Metzger to discuss his interest in the position of Director of Judicial Administration. The rest, as they say, is history.

Or it might have been.

Mike has tried to retire several times. How the Court managed to lure him away from the golf course will remain a perennial mystery. (His handicap is 1.) After retiring Mike once again took up the mantle of leadership in innovation as a Special Projects Manager for the OCJ on a variety of projects, including the Provincial Court Scheduling Project and the new Abbotsford Law Courts.

We like to think this wasn’t about choosing the harder right, instead of the easier wrong, but whatever drove Mike’s decision-making process, the Court and the people of British Columbia are indebted to his dedication and service. Universally likeable with a tremendous sense of humour, Mike has agreed to stay in his role for another year.

Chief Judge Gillespie said, “I’m the eighth Chief Judge to benefit from Mike Smith’s tremendous knowledge, experience, and managerial skills. The Provincial Court of British Columbia is grateful for his ongoing commitment to the Court and the public it serves.”