By Mike Archer. When newly-minted MLA Darryl Plecas asked Surjit Atwal to work for him in his constituency office, Atwal thought about it long and hard before deciding.
Atwal had met Plecas at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) where Plecas had played an important role in Atwal getting a university education.
“Darryl inspired me to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science,” says Atwal.
Atwal not only achieved his degree, he achieved in three years. There is now an award at UFV called the Surjit Atwal Remarkable Achievement Award.
“He was much more than a teacher, he was an inspiration. You’ll find Darryl’s students will tell you he is a very inspirational man to learn from,” says Atwal.
Not wanting to leave without his prize, Plecas asked Atwal, “What would you like your job to be?”
And that is how Surjit Atwal became Plecas’ Community Outreach Coordinators.
It’s a job he takes very seriously.
“I don’t believe a politician can have real success unless he or she provides equal access to government for everybody in the community,” says Atwal.
Atwal has doggedly pursued relationships with groups as disparate and different as anyone can imagine and has spent a great deal of his time off the beaten track.
He says the reactions he has received from organizations and groups both large and small is usually the same.
At first – suspicion. Then – acceptance. And finally – belief that what Atwal is engaged in is a sincere effort to bring as many people as possible in the riding of Abbotsford South closer to their government.
Atwal has organized a number of one-on-one, casual or formal, high level or simple get together meetings for Plecas and has, as a result, opened a great many doors for the rookie MLA.
If Atwal has not yet met with you or your group, don’t feel left out. You are sure to be on his list.
Beyond meeting with every community group and organization in Abbotsford, Atwal has been busy organizing a series of meetings at Plecas’ constituency office bringing a whole variety of people together from different governmental, business and community groups to discuss issues of importance to the community at large.
The most recent of these was a Round-table Discussion on Human Trafficking held on April 25, hosted by MLA Plecas and including MP Joy Smith and a variety of city councilors, care givers, religious leaders, police and media on the issue of prostitution and human trafficking.
Atwal says that working for Plecas in his role as Community Outreach Coordinator has so far been one of the most rewarding and important roles he has yet taken on.
“This is where some of the most important work of government happens … right down at the community level,” he says.