July 15 was a big day on Bowen. While most were settling into their summer Monday routines, two new islanders were starting new routines. But they weren’t just any islanders.
July 15, Adam Koehle (pronounced KEE-lee) started as the Bowen Island RCMP detachment head and Derek Dickson started as the municipality’s new fire chief.
There are boots to fill: each took over from well-respected predecessors, Cpl. Paulo Arreaga at the RCMP and Ian Thompson at the fire department but Bowen’s new emergency service dynamic duo is up for a challenge.
One challenge being the nature of their new town.
Neither has worked and lived in a place as small as Bowen Island. Koehle transferred from Squamish (a population of nearly 20,000) to Bowen, a step he says was helpful in the transition to smaller town life (before Squamish Koehle worked in North Vancouver). Dickson jumped right from working in North Vancouver to Bowen Island.
“It’s been a bit of an adjustment for sure,” says Dickson. “Lifestyle wise and culturally and community-wise, it’s a very tightly knit community.
“Everybody knows everybody, except when you’re the new guy you don’t know anybody,” he laughs.
But Dickson isn’t completely new to the island. Since 2004 Dickson has helped with the Bowen Island Fire Department’s annual open houses, providing inspections and education. He spent more than 20 years with the City of North Vancouver fire department, as a fire inspector and investigator, a certified structural firefighter and for the past four years as captain of the training division.
“I really enjoy the community and spend a lot of time over here, so it just seemed like a natural fit for me to step in,” says Dickson. “It’s got a really steep learning curve, but there’s a lot of positives for sure.”
Both say that the community has been very welcoming.
“Everybody’s been really good at coming up and introducing themselves,” says Koehle. “It amazes me, you’ll see teenagers stop their car on the road, jump out, come out, introduce themselves, whoever their family is, wish you a nice day and then take off again. I’ve never had that before.”
Koehle spent nearly 10 years working with the RCMP in North Vancouver before moving to Squamish for the past four years. While he managed a team in Squamish, this is Koehle’s first time running a detachment.
“It was an interesting opportunity in terms of career, getting to kind of run the detachment and still have a small team of people,” says Koehle.
Koehle knew something about policing on Bowen before applying to the island detachment –– he’d been talking quite a bit over the past year with his old friend from his days in North Vancouver, Paulo Arreaga.
“He was a huge resource,” says Koehle.
“It seems like a really amazing town,” says Koehle. “You guys have done a lot of stuff on a community level when it comes to resources. Partly because you’re isolated in a lot of ways, but things like the Caring Circle, the Rotary Club putting in all the AEDs and stuff, you don’t see that in other communities. They tend to rely on structures that are in place. So I think the community is very proactive and very industrious.”
Both say they appreciate islanders’ patience as they settle in.
“I have to learn more about this island,” says Dickson.
“I have to learn more about the people and the history and the culture. But I’m looking forward to it.”