The face of Bradford West Gwillimbury’s council has gone through many changes over the years, but a few things remain the same, including Coun. Peter Dykie Jr. who has been representing the town for the past 34 years.
Dykie said his uncle, William (Bill) Dykie, was his inspiration and role model when it came to politics.
Bill was a member of BWG council in the mid 1980s. Dykie even remembers helping him campaign door to door, handing out promotional materials when he was just 15 years old.
When Dykie turned the legal voting age in 1985, he jumped at the opportunity to run for council.
As the youngest candidate to ever run and be elected, he received a lot of encouragement from his uncle and the community. Back then, there were no wards or zones; the top four candidates were the ones who earned a spot on council. He squeaked by, making it in fourth place.
“I was the underdog,” explained the Ward 7 councillor.
In 1985, West Gwillimbury and Bradford were two separate towns. Everything west of Bradford District High School was considered to be West Gwillimbury, and everything east of the high school was considered Bradford. It was not until 1991 when both towns were amalgamated into one.
At the time, Dykie was attending school for business administration at Humber College in Toronto, as well as running his own jewelry store in Bradford, divvying up his time between work, class and council meetings.
“The councillors I worked with, their children were about my age, so it was a very different atmosphere. I had to become more mature,” he said.
“I had to change my lifestyle; I had to grow up quick. Here, I was in the public life. It was a busy life, and I don’t regret any of it because I learned a lot. I met a lot of interesting people. I worked with a lot of amazing mayors and councillors.”
As one of the longest-serving members of council, Dykie has seen a lot of growth and changes in Bradford. He noted every councillor and mayor conducts business differently, but what really counts is what the residents think of you.
“It’s all about the public. You could be a good person, but it’s all about how the public (perceives) you, accepts you, respects you, likes you,” he explained.
“You have to be open minded and research ‘Is it the best for the homeowner?’ What staff has in mind might not be the right thing for Mrs. Jones.”
But it’s not all glitz and glamour being on council.
Dykie said being in meetings five days a week and working full time at his jewelry shop in the downtown core is hard work.
“It takes a toll. You get involved in the community, you’re dedicated to the community, and it’s not easy,” he said.
But he is passionate about what he does and enjoys being an ear and voice for the residents.
He has a lot of history in the community and has developed relationships with many people in town.
With his jewelry shop located at the four corners, he is easily accessible to the public and has residents coming in daily to speak to him. Whether it’s about business, life, or concerns with the town, he said he always takes the time to listen.
Back in 2009, Dykie’s store was robbed, and he lost nearly $300,000 of his own money. He said he remembers people reaching out offering to help in order to keep his business afloat. Even though he didn’t accept any money, he was touched by the generosity of the community.
Dykie has two sons, Justin, 15 and Aydan, 13, who he loves spending time with in town and travelling around to other cities.
“I want them to see what community life is,” he said.