NOTL Hydro lost a good friend last Thursday. Bob Cheriton, a Board member since 2002, passed away.
Bob really enjoyed being part of the NOTL Hydro Board. Over time, and due to his sickness, Bob had to give up many of his activities. These included organizing the annual Niagara-on-the-Lake Santa Claus parade, representing NOTL Energy on the Board of Niagara Regional Broadband Network and engaging with the Niagara-on-the-Lake golf club. He was determined that stepping away from NOTL Hydro would be one of the last things he gave up. He was true to his word. Even when in the hospital he was still passing on his best wishes to the team at NOTL Hydro.
Many organizations have term limits for Board members. There are many valid reasons for these. New members bring fresh perspectives and assist in developing diversity. They also allow for the polite removal of those who are no longer contributing or are just along for the ride. A downside of term limits is the loss of knowledge and the loss of members who still have much to contribute. NOTL Hydro does not have term limits for its Board members and, in the case of Bob, this meant we were able to continue to benefit from his contributions. He was an exception to that rule.
Bob Cheriton was one of those Board members who only speaks when he has something to say. When he did speak, we all listened. Whether he was passing on some of his experience of having been a Vice President at Bell, utilizing his knowledge from his long association with NOTL Hydro or focusing on his strong sense of right and wrong, Bob always provided very thoughtful guidance. As part of this, Bob was always very cognizant of the role of a Board member versus that of management. It was very much guidance he provided to ensure NOTL Hydro was heading in the right direction. He did not try to manage.
In 2018, the NOTL Hydro York transformation station was renamed in his honour. We kept it a surprise from him and simply made an announcement to the Board that we were meeting at the station after a Board meeting to demonstrate some of our new equipment. I will always remember his expression of surprise when his wife, Rosalie, drove up. “What on earth are you doing here?”. Only then did we unveil the plaque pictured above.
I think one of the reasons for Bob’s passion for NOTL Hydro was its success and the pride he felt for his contributions to that success. One of the joys of working for a small organization is that everyone, no matter what their position, can see the impact they are having. Bob could see the significant improvements that had been made at NOTL Hydro, over almost all aspects of the business, in his twenty years of involvement and know the role he played in them. He often expressed his amazement that such a small utility could do so much. That may have been his Bell background looking with a sense of disbelief.
When things became a challenge, Bob loved to blame “that damn Ryan”, his good friend and our Chair, Jim Ryan, for getting him involved. This was usually said with a bit of a twinkle in the eye. Bob’s legacy is for the company to keep moving in the right direction. To keep acting in the best interests of its customers and stakeholders, to keep adapting to the new technologies and to keep doing the right things. We may no longer have Bob’s guidance; but we can still keep following his guidance.