Jerry Steen's only issue with his move to Nanaimo is that he didn't come here sooner. Less than two years ago, he moved from Calgary where he hosted a successful morning radio show, because he always wanted to live on the West Coast.
In the past, he has lived in Winnipeg and various other cities in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Steen, a self described news junkie, now hosts the morning radio show on 91.7 Coast FM and lives in the Departure Bay neighbourhood with his partner Carol O'Hara. He describes Nanaimo as "one of Canada's best kept secrets." Steen can be heard on the radio from 6 -9 a.m. on weekdays.
What drew you to Nanaimo and when did you arrive? I had just left a job in Regina and I had enough of the Prairie winters. I had been coming to Parksville to visit my sister in the summertime and I fell in love with the Island and the Parksville area. We would get off the ferry in Departure Bay and we would drive right through to Parksville.
My first impression of Nanaimo was shopping centres. I thought, 'Where's the town? It's all shopping malls.' When I came out here (to Vancouver Island) and scouted around to where I wanted to be - conducted my due diligence - I thought, 'Wow, what a great a city to be in.' My sister and family drew me here and so it was originally Parksville
that I was familiar with, but Nanaimo was like a pleasant surprise.
What challenges have you faced? Getting used to the three minute traffic jams! No, I don't think there have been any challenges. Coming directly from Calgary, which is a city of over a million people, now there's a city full of challenges in terms of getting around. Traffic is backed up (on
your daily commute), you go to a restaurant and you're going to be waiting around regardless. Same thing with shopping. Nanaimo has all of that stuff without the challenges, without the hassles. There have been many times where I've said to Carol, 'Why isn't everyone here?' How are you integrating into the community and what do you bring to Nanaimo?
I'm at the point now where I'm just trying to make connections within the community and now, with work, that becomes a slower process. I don't know what I bring to the community yet, I haven't brought it. My ultimate goal was to get out to the West Coast because I felt my sentence on the Prairies was done. I had served my sentence, I escaped and now I have to figure out what I bring to Nanaimo.
What is the most underrated thing in/about Nanaimo, from your point of view? The people. They are so friendly. For me it was just another one of those pleasant surprises. The people are so nice, outgoing, warm.
I think that maybe a lot of people get taken up with Nanaimo's climate and everything else and forget that the people are half of what Nanaimo is all about.
If you could make one change to Nanaimo, what would it be? I have no problems with Nanaimo. I don't think there's any one thing I would change. They say it rains in the wintertime but, look, clear blue sky. Actually, I'd like to change the fact that I should have been here when I was younger. That's the one change I would make.
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