Bylaw enforcement officer Marcel Bedard sits behind the wheel of his 2004 Chevy Cavalier in 2017. He retired on April 9, 2021 after 24 years working for the City of Salmon Arm. (File photo)

Bylaw enforcement officer Marcel Bedard sits behind the wheel of his 2004 Chevy Cavalier in 2017. He retired on April 9, 2021 after 24 years working for the City of Salmon Arm. (File photo)

Salmon Arm bylaw officer parks his parking tickets after 24 years

Despite the insults that go with the job, Marcel Bedard enjoyed his work for the city

Marcel Bedard may have received more insults than he cares to remember, but he is not a bitter man.

He likes people.

His secret?

As the City of Salmon Arm’s bylaw enforcement officer for the past 24 years, Bedard is clear that while some people despised the job he did, they didn’t despise him.

When he was at Askew’s in his uniform or at a hockey game, people were friendly and would come up and chat, often asking a question about city workings.

Some residents knew his background; when Bedard was not handing out parking tickets or enforcing a dog bylaw, he was likely cooking up a four-course meal using his skills as a red-seal chef.

In-person insults were fairly infrequent, he said, with people more apt to do a drive-by dissing.

“They’ll open the windows and yell obscenities or ‘get a real job.’”

He said insults are not uncommon for anyone who works in government.

Bedard has heard so many, he’s become something of a connoisseur. He recounted how he would react to hearing a new dig.

“I just kind of chuckled. ‘I haven’t heard that one before – that’s good.’”

Bedard’s first official day of retirement was Monday, April 12.

Throughout his 24 years on the job, he’s been putting the notes he’s received and various clippings into a scrapbook.

It’s a lively compilation, with more complaints than compliments – about 80 to one, he jokes.

One note includes the life-sized tracing of a hand, with the middle finger extended.

“I’ve always joked I’m going to write a book about bylaw enforcement. ‘The names have been changed to protect the stupid,’” he quipped.

He pointed to a card special to him. The couple who sent it thanked him warmly, despite having had to take down their fence.

When he trained summer students, he would often give them the scrapbook to look at beforehand so they could get an idea of the job.

Sometimes Bedard found himself agreeing with a complainant about rules that seemed silly.

He pointed to one bylaw he thinks is still on the books. If a milking cow gets loose in Salmon Arm, he could catch it, but he would have to milk it three times a day and then he could keep the milk.

“I kept waiting for a dairy cow to break loose,” he smiled.

About 30 years ago Bedard was working as a chef in Whistler but gave it up when he started a family. The hours were too brutal. He decided to try out a job there as a bylaw officer, later moving to Merritt to do the same work.

He laughs about his interview in Salmon Arm 24 years ago. On the drive in, he hit a bump and spilled coffee down the front of the one shirt he had with him. Ten minutes later he bit into an apple and chipped his front tooth, so he couldn’t speak without a lisp. To his surprise, he still got the job.

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Bedard said he always looked forward each morning to his work in Salmon Arm.

Along with the everyday task of parking enforcement, a lot of other duties have fallen under his wing. Such as the annual migration of baby mallards from city hall to the lake. Ducks began laying their eggs in the plants and hedges at city hall. At least five times when they hatched, Bedard carried a butterfly net full of ducklings to the lake while the mama duck either waddled behind or flew overhead.

“That was always a fun thing.”

He’s been tasked with getting a moose moving up a street, removing marmots from people’s cars, and helping rescue turtles out of a water main at McGuire Lake.

He remembers one day when people were at the foreshore loading turtles into the back of a truck. He told them there was a $100 fine per turtle. Although that may or may not have been true, it worked and the turtles were saved.

He recalled one disgruntled citizen who left a bag filled with 3,500 pennies to pay for a parking ticket. Bedard points out that the fine was actually only $10 because it was paid within two days and, secondly, he wasn’t the person who received or counted the payments.

Similar payment oddities have happened a few times. He said the women at city hall’s front counter don’t get paid enough some days.

His job involved any bylaw-related complaints, ranging from noise issues to unsightly premises. Asked what is defined as unsightly, he said it’s left to his discretion.

“If it’s worse than my carport, it’s unsightly,” he chuckled.

Complaints about unsightly places have ranged from people storing piles of garbage, to those citizens who are hoarders.

“I’ve had people call for my opinion about family matters,” he said of his job’s variety. He’s told them he can give his opinion, but it won’t be a professional one.

Bedard expressed appreciation for his management team, which has always been “200 per cent” supportive of him.

“They know the kind of stuff that happens to me. They’re quite understanding.”

Carl Bannister, the city’s chief administrative officer, returned the compliment. “The bylaw enforcement position can be tough, dealing with conflict and negativity. Marcel has done it with class and he will be sorely missed by all.”

Read more: New wheels for bylaw officer

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Bedard said the key to his position is listening. “You have to let them express themselves, good or bad…They’ll say the same thing three or four times.”

He said there’s always a solution to a problem; he’ll sometimes ask what the person in question sees as the solution.

Bedard urges the public to be patient this year and support downtown businesses, as roads will be busy with the highway four-laning, the traffic light relocation on the downtown corridor and the Ross Street underpass.

Asked what he’d like to see change about Salmon Arm, he said all the business staff who park outside their business. He noted that vehicles on Alexander, for instance, can change about four times an hour. Even though parking is for two hours, if someone parks a long time, it means someone’s business could miss a customer.

The city is hiring two bylaw officers this year to fill Bedard’s shoes.

What will he be doing?

His future will involve a lot of camping and maybe a little gold panning.

He has a long-term RV spot in the Shuswap, plus a truck and camper and tent, as well as an RV he and his spouse will be parking on Vancouver Island.

He said the camper will allow them to pull off to the side of the road instead of finding a campsite, if need be.

“I know where not to park. I know all the excuses… I know where to hide,” he laughs.


marthawickett@saobserver.net
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