The friendly dragon who guards the treasure is heading to the gates of retirement.
School District 57 secretary treasurer Bryan Mix officially announced that Tuesday night at the school board office. That most certainly means he'll have more time for golf and watching hockey, which is lot less stressful than finding creative ways to keep public schools open.
During a 24-year tenure that began in 1989 when he moved to Prince George from a similar position in the Burns Lake school system, it was Mix's duty as secretary treasurer to endure the torment that came with permanently shuttering schools.
"Closing 25 schools was difficult and those meetings were stressful, but beyond those closures it was always done in the best interest of providing a good quality education for kids," said the 64-year-old Mix. "You either put the money into kids or have to heat empty spaces. Those were difficult times but the district is in good financial shape, the buildings are built and are full, and those are the important things in delivering an educational program."
Mix fought back tears while taking in words of gratitude from well-wishers who attended Tuesday's school board meeting, the final public meeting for Mix in an official capacity before he retires on March 31.
"We all know the last decade has been a very difficult time of downloads to the district, lots of things that have come unexpectedly, like the cancellation of grants to maintain our buildings, but unlike other districts we haven't found unexpected deficits," said Prince George District Teachers Association president Matt Pearce. "The credit for that largely goes to Mr. Mix."
On behalf of the board, SD 57 chair Sharel Warrington gave Mix, an avid photographer, a framed picture of the city's downtown taken at night. She thanked him for representing the board on provincial, municipal and regional district committees, and the sound advice he's given the 13 boards of trustees he's served.
"He's a gentle, kind, thoughtful, caring man and his heart has been in the district," said Warrington, who came up with the friendly dragon reference to describe Mix.
"He always has guided the board of education through tough times and difficult decisions, but always because he's placed the students first. If you don't have your finances in order, education is difficult, and any time we had to look at cutting any service, Bryan was emphatic we had to have our revenues and expenses well-managed."
Mix's career was highlighted by his work in developing the joint use agreement in 1992, which cleared the way for community groups to use district schools outside of regular teaching hours for recreational activities and gave students better access to city facilities like the pools and ice rinks.
In 2003, he worked out details that led to the board leaving the cramped confines of the former central administrative offices on Ninth Avenue for the more spacious office building on Ferry Avenue that previously served as the local headquarters for Telus.
He also arranged a land swap involving the city and Northern Health, which allowed construction of the Kordyban Cancer Lodge on the site of a former park. The province provided the school district $2.2 million in compensation, much of which was used to develop new parkland at Duchess Park secondary school. Mix developed the fiscal plans that created new high schools in Valemount and at Duchess Park.
"His most important work was done around finance, governance and learning in our schools and he has been a pivotal member of the senior administration team district so pretty much every major staff decision in the work leading to the board over the last 24 years has involved Bryan in some way," said superintendent Brian Pepper.
"That said, one of the little known things about Bryan is his ability to look at things from a creative kind of approach that isn't just crunching numbers but taking into consideration the students and the community. He's a friend and a trusted advisor and I'm going to miss working with him."
Allan Reed, a 16-year SD 57 employee, will become the acting secretary treasurer as of April 1.