Blogger, environmentalist named New Westminster Citizen of the Year

Blogger, environmentalist and cyclist Patrick Johnstone was named Citizen of the Year at the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce
Blogger, environmentalist and cyclist Patrick Johnstone was named Citizen of the Year at the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce's Platinum Awards on Thursday.
— image credit: Mario Bartel/NewsLeader

Patrick Johnstone writes a blog called New West In My Back Yard (NWIMBY) because he's passionate about the city he lives in. It turns out the rest of the city likes being in his back yard.

Johnstone was named Citizen of the Year at the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce's Platinum Awards gala held at the La Perla Ballroom in River Market Thursday night. Just getting nominated surprised him.

"I thought it was a nice gesture, but I didn't think I was going to win," said Johnstone. "Put it this way I didn't have a speech prepared, anyway. I'm glad they didn't ask for one."

The 44-year-old Brow of the Hill resident not only frequently blogs about New West issues, he's a prodigious user of Twitter sending several—usually opinionated and entertaining—tweets out daily to spark thought and debate about issues in the community.

"Looking back I think I'm the first digital citizen of the year. So much of what I've done is through social media," said Johnstone.

During his university years the Castlegar native rented apartments in New Westminster so it was the natural place for he and his wife to go when they decided to buy a home eight years ago. He got to know the operators of the Tenth to the Fraser blog, Jen Arbo and Briana Tomkinson, and they encouraged him to share his numerous thoughts via social media.

"It's where I live, it's my community. I like being a citizen of the community, and I like doing what I can to improve the community, and I like getting other people involved in the community. That's the fun part of it," said Johnstone when asked why he's so passionate about New Westminster. "It's easy to engage people in this city because it seems like everybody in our town cares. It's good, it's fun."

In addition to his blog and tweeting, Johnstone has been heavily involved in New Westminster Environmental Partners, is a board member of the Royal City Curling Club, serves on the city's bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee as well as being its representative on New Westminster's Master Transportation Plan task force, and is secretary of his neighbourhood residents association. On top of that, he is president of the Environmental Managers of British Columbia and frequently commutes by bicycle to his job as an environmental coordinator for the City of Richmond.

Johnstone says New West has a strong tradition of people making great contributions to the community.

"I sit in that room (La Perla) and I see a lot of people, businesses and citizens that do so much to make New Westminster the great place it is," said Johnstone. "I see people who have been in the city for longer than I have, and who have done more than I have.

PHOTO: Keila Stark
is Junior Citizen
of the Year.

"I will just continue to do what I do. I haven't got any specific plans past next week's NWEP event, but there are sure other conversations coming up next year around the Pattullo Bridge. There are still lots of things to talk about in this city and I hope to keep the conversation going."

He won't deny, however, contemplating running for council in next November's municipal election, but he's a long way from making a decision.

"Is there thought? Yes, the thought exists," said Johnstone. "It is not off the table, but there are a lot of things to consider."

The junior citizen of the year went to Keila Stark, who organized the New Westminster secondary's environmental club, has done work with restoring fisheries, organized fundraising drives for the World Wildlife Federation, was a delegate to New West's 2032 sustainability conference, won $1,000 for her school at the Green Games and has participated in the youth United Nations as a delegate.

Author and historian Katherine Freund-Hainsworth won the Bernie Legge Cultural award.

Thrifty Foods took the Corporate Community Spirit category even though its parent company Sobeys is being forced to sell the Sapperton store by Canada's Competition Bureau.

Other award winners were:

• Not-for-profit under $1 million – Union Gospel Mission

• Not-for-profit over $1 million – Lower Mainland Purpose Society

• Customer service business – Family Eyecare

• Customer service individual – Francine Bouchard, The Pantry

• New small business of the year – Re Up BBQ

• New medium-sized business of the year – The Spud Shack

• Small business of the year – Pink Ribbon Bakery

• Medium-sized business of the year – Artis Dental Centre

• Large-sized business of the year – Starlight Casino

• Outstanding marketer of the year – Douglas College marketing department

• Medium-sized business marketer of the year – New Westminster NewsLeader

• Small-sized business marketer of the year – Tourism New Westminster

• Corporate diversity award – Orion Health

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