Renfrew – Bev Briscoe, a retired clerk-treasurer who spent her 37-year career in her home community of Admaston, was remembered on her passing last week for her dedication to her municipality, efficiency, positive attitude and ability to keep a sense of humour.
“My first memory with myself as mayor and our new council was the ice storm,” recalled former Admaston, and later Admaston/Bromley Mayor Raye-Anne Briscoe. “We had been sworn in for 20 days and then the ice storm hit and we had it very bad.
“We declared a state of emergency and Bev got us through it. I remember relying on her for advice. It was three weeks of something I will never forget,” she said.
That was back in 1998 and the rookie mayor, who would go on to lead her township and then the amalgamated township for many more years, learned what a valuable asset her clerk-treasurer was. Her admiration for her remained undiminished in the ensuing years.
The two women – both Briscoe – were married to two brothers and so knew each other well. When Raye-Anne became the reeve and Bev was the clerk-treasurer, their relationship took on a new level and they worked together very smoothly for over two decades until Bev retired at the of 2012.
Bev had worked at the township since 1975 and had a lot of knowledge, so she was instrumental in the old home week celebrations for three days which Admaston held, Raye-Anne recalled.
“And with amalgamation in 2000, there was meeting after meeting,” she said. “We brought in the ward system at the time and then she left when the wards were finished, so she took us to amalgamation, wards and then the end of the ward system.”
Bev was always focused on what was best for the ratepayers, including keeping the tax rate affordable, she recalled.
“When I was there, the province cut our funding and we lost $600,000,” she said. “Our budget was not even $2 million, so to keep our tax rate affordable was an effort second to none.”
Despite all these best efforts, there were still times when properties did fall into arrears, the former mayor said.
“And she was really effective in dealing with tax arrears,” she said. “She managed that so well.”
Bev was very organized, she said.
“She was very proud of our Canada Day and our Remembrance Day service in Douglas,” she recalled. “It was on Friday and that was organized so students could come.”
One year Bev was honoured as the Citizen of the Year for the Canada Day festivities and Raye-Anne said it should have been renamed Citizen of the Years for her long-service to the community.
As the senior staff member at the township, she was well respected as a boss by people in the various departments, Raye-Anne added.
“She was well-liked, engaging but businesslike,” she said. “The client came first, and she set the environment for that.”
A community person, she was born in the community and raised there so she knew the community, she added.
During her time at the helm in Admaston and later Admaston/Bromley there were major changes, including a move from everything being on paper to the advent of computers and Bev handled that smoothly, she said. As well, she had to re-apply for the clerk-treasurer job when amalgamation came in, even though she had been doing this at Admaston for 25 years at the time and she handled the application and interview with grace.
“Her biggest challenge was probably me,” Raye-Anne joked. “I was the first female reeve and then mayor. I am a type A personality, so I always have two balls in the air and am looking for the third one.”
Bev was a sounding board and partner in looking at ideas, measuring it to see if this was what the community needed “polishing it like two apples” and then bringing it to council, she recalled.
“Bev was the steadying force I needed,” she said.
A woman who loved being around people, there was always time for a laugh, a joke and cup of coffee, she recalled.
“Now she is sleeping in the palm of the hand of her God and I wish her to sleep well,” she said. “Thank you to Bev’s family for sharing her with us.”
A Mentor in Municipal Life
Bonnechere Valley CAO Annette Gilchrist worked with Mrs. Briscoe when she was beginning her municipal career after some time in the private sector.
“She was really gentle but she knew what she knew,” she said. “I will miss her quite a bit.”
Bev set a positive tone at the municipal office, she recalled.
“She would always say, ‘see you tomorrow bright eyed and bushy tailed’,” she recalled.
Mrs. Gilchrist described her as “my quiet force. Like the wind you steered the ship at just the right speed and in the direction we needed to go.”
She recalled if she brought a problem to Bev the answer was always “can I think about it?”
“And think about it she did long and hard with dedication and heart. You knew when she gave you the answer there was no doubt,” she said.
Feedback was delivered in a gentle way, she recalled. She also encouraged the staff to have a sense of humour in municipal life.
“So true,” she said. “And if you have something positive to report to council no matter how small, always bring it forward.
“You will be missed my mentor, my teacher, my friend,” Mrs. Gilchrist said. “Thinking and praying for Lisa (Mousseau) and David, Erica and Brandon and family.”
Bev died on Thursday after a tough fight against cancer. She was surrounded by her loving family during her final days in hospital. Her obituary describes her as a woman who loved family, watching her grandchildren play sports, playing cards and going for drives with her husband.
She leaves behind her husband of 52 years, David and daughter Lisa (Steven), grandchildren Brandon and Erica, as well as many other family members.