IN MEMORIAM: “Erik Karlsen was a ‘change agent’ in every sense of the word, made his mark on so many fronts, and was respected throughout,” stated Eric Bonham, a former colleague in the BC provincial government, when he reflected on the influence and impact of Erik Karlsen in bringing people with different perspectives together to find common ground

Note to Reader:

When he was in government, Eric Bonham was a Director in both the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Eric Bonham is a civil engineer with a political science degree and 50-plus years of water-centric planning experience. This combination makes him one-of-a-kind.

A keen believer in community stewardship, he is a Director of the BC Lake Stewardship Society and was actively involved in park creation on Vancouver Island. He was named 1987 Honorary Citizen of Victoria for his contribution to the community and has received awards from a number of organizations for his contribution to water management issues in BC. Eric Bonham is also a founding member of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

Below is his tribute to the late Erik Karlsen (1945-2020). Over the course of his career in government, Erik Karlsen bridged the worlds of municipal affairs and environmental stewardship. For a generation of elected representatives, his was a familiar face in the local government setting.

Erik Karlsen was the first Director of Regional Growth Strategies in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. After he retired from government, the cabinet of Premier Gordon Campbell asked him to Chair BC’s Agricultural Land Commission, which he did from 2005 through 2010.

A Tribute to Erik Karlsen (1945-2020)

“Erik Karlsen had such a vibrant capacity for life and shared his many talents so generously with all who had the good fortune to know him. He had a natural ability to connect with all who knew him, whether it be the Premier of the Province, Mike Harcourt, the Minister, of the Environment, Joan Sawicki, or one of his many associates,” wrote Eric Bonham.

“Erik built many connections throughout his extraordinary career that included contacts within the three levels of government, the academic sector and community stewardship groups. His broad range of interests allowed him to move comfortably from one discipline to another, while his ability to envision the big picture and provide practical counsel won him much respect from colleagues, decision makers and politicians alike.

“I first knew of Erik Karlsen when I worked in the Ministry of Environment as a member of an inter-ministry group that was collaborating on community stewardship initiatives. Erik was with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs at the time. Needless to say there was high energy in the group sparked by Erik’s ‘ever raising the bar’ challenge of what was possible.

“Subsequently, I joined the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, as the Director of Engineering, and found myself in many a discussion on work related issues with him, and at times more philosophical topics, for Erik’s mind never rested ! He made a positive impression upon people along the way and yet, throughout, focussed on the common good, constantly asking the tougher questions and seeking partnerships to achieve the objective.

“Erik reflected the very best qualities of a dedicated civil servant, committed to outcomes that served the common interests of the province, building partnerships that resulted in creative yet practical policies, and endlessly thinking ‘outside the box’ that oftentimes made his colleagues’ heads spin!

“Erik was a ‘change agent’ in every sense of the word, made his mark on so many fronts, and was respected throughout. A quote from Margaret Mead comes to mind. I would suggest Erik would be included in that small cadre of change agents that she refers to:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

“I cannot help but imagine the interesting conversations that Erik would be holding just now, in light of our current global situation!”

To Learn More:

Erik Karlsen (1945-2020) made many contributions to development of a guiding philosophy for leading and managing change in British Columbia. He conceived the “What / So What / Now What / Then What” concept as away to frame a process for building consensus around a vision and a strategy.  The approach was introduced in February 2005 at the Okanagan Conference on the Future for Water. DOWNLOAD HERE.