Serving You: Henry Braun
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun
You & Me BC
February 23rd, 2022
"We need to regain trust in our institutions - trust is the currency of public representatives and once it's gone we get a toxic culture"
In this series, we talk with elected representatives from across BC, getting to know them and the issues they care about most.
This time we chat with Henry Braun: Mayor of Abbotsford, budding history writer, and lover of The Beach Boys.
Henry Braun Quick Facts
Hero: Jesus Christ. My faith's who I am, and it sustained me during the flooding.
Favourite location: I love Mill Lake, as well as Sumas Mountain and the interior
Hobbies: Gardening, cooking bouillabaisse, and spending time with my wife Velma
Pets: Three cats and 13 cattle
Favourite movie: Sum of All Fears
Favourite food: I'd have to say Velma's rouladen
Favourite song: I love The Beach Boys, and 'Surfer Girls' is always my special request
Interesting fact: I'm totally colour blind, so my wife buys my clothes and lays them out so they match. One time when she went away, I wore two different coloured shoes to work. It was a little embarrassing to say the least!
Let's start from the beginning: how did you get involved in politics?
Henry: It's been a long journey and one I never sought out. For most of my career, I was a businessman working in the private sector and owned a railway and transit company.
When I sold it in 2000, a friend tried convincing me to run for public office. I didn't want to at that time, and it took me another 8 or 9 years, but eventually with my wife's support I ran for a seat on the Abbotsford council, and then for mayor.
It's been long journey, but a very worthwhile and rewarding one.
How did your experience in business prepare you for a political career?
Henry: What helped me most was that I'd had 350 employees at the time of selling my business. It helped me understand the dynamics of running a large organization: the communication, the conflict management, as well as the processes that you must stick with in order to keep all the parts working together.
There are many similarities between business and politics, but policymaking can be much more complex.
What do you consider the most important issue for Abbotsford right now?
Henry: Building back after the flooding of the Sumas Valley last November is still a focus, and so far the province has given us pretty much everything we asked for, but there are bigger costs in front of us.
Staying fiscally responsible, and maintaining our strong economic position as we rebuild is so important.
Mayor Braun detailing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the BC floods
Aside from your work at city hall, how do you stay connected to the people of Abbotsford?
Henry: I've been at work every day, taking all the engagements I can. In 2019, before the pandemic halted most in-person gatherings, I spoke over 200 times at community events, and would speak to a group of 20 as easily as I would to a group of 200.
Not only does this help build that connection, I enjoy it and it helps me take in valuable information from residents about the issues they care most about. You can't do a good job as mayor unless you're there with the community.
What are your goals for 2022?
Henry: My personal goal's to finish and publish a book on my family history. My parents were refugees from Mennonite villages in southern Ukraine, and they moved around and eventually to Paraguay, where I lived the first 3 years of my life before coming to Canada.
I started searching out my family history in 1985, learning about the journey of my parents and how they eventually ended up in the very hot place where I was born.
I'll be 72 in June, and will also be making a decision about what to do with the rest of my life. I have a good 10 years in me and want to make them count.
Mayor Braun with wife Velma and community members
What are you proudest of in your career?
Henry: There were a number of things I wanted to accomplish when I started, especially to bring more fiscal discipline to city.
We were $17 million in the red when I came to council, but by the end of last year we were over $300 million in the positive.
I was proud of that, but it's ultimately up to history to judge my record.
Anything to add?
Henry: Behind me, where I sit now, is my oath of office. I read it often to remind myself why I'm here: to serve the public and carry out these duties without the influence of outside parties.
Today more than ever we need to regain trust in our institutions - trust's the currency of public representatives, and once it's gone we get a toxic culture and downward spiral in society.
And that's why it's so important that politicians always serve their communities honestly, openly, and effectively.
To get in touch with Spencer van Vloten, editor of You & Me BC, please send an email to email@example.com