A founding father of Kanata, former reeve ‘was dedicated to his community’
From OttawaCommunityNews.com by Jessica Kunha, Kanata Kourier-Standard, 11/15/2017
People who walk by the large portrait of John Mlacak in the centre that bears his name will now have the opportunity to learn a little more about the man who is considered one of the founding fathers of Kanata.
His widow Beth Mlacak, Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson and Mayor Jim Watson unveiled a plaque next to the portrait, located in the main entrance hall of the John G. Mlacak Centre, on Nov. 14. Dozens of friends and former colleagues attended the dedication ceremony.
“An accomplished humanist, engineer, politician, mentor, leader and artist, John G. Mlacak loved the beauty of his country and was dedicated to his community,” said Beth, reading the words inscribed on the plaque.
Previously, only an identification sign gave any indication as to who was depicted in the painting and why. Beth was instrumental in getting the more detailed plaque installed, which outlines the impact her late husband had on the community of Kanata. Her adult children Bill, Kirsten and Siobhan also helped with the wording in English and French.
Mlacak, who died in 2014, held many titles; he was a professional engineer by trade, reeve of the former March township from 1968 to 1976, regional commissioner of the National Capital Commission for three years and a renowned professional artist.
One of the first 10 families to settle in the Beaverbrook area, he got involved in municipal politics “almost immediately,” said Wilkinson, adding he was her mentor when she was elected to the former township council.
He helped bring garbage and recycling collection to Kanata, and was heavily involved in developing other services in the area, including seniors housing, a child care centre, a combined fire hall and library, as well as the first municipal business park.
Wilkinson recalled how the former township council was able to name the building after Mlacak without him knowing.
“He was reeve at the time. He had to go to a regional meeting downtown and the other four members of council were meeting without him; he hadn’t gotten back yet. We said, ‘This is a good time, we should name something after John,’” she said.
“He did an awful lot of work to get this building going so we put a motion forward and passed it. Then he came in and we told him.”
Mlacak was “really annoyed” by the approved motion, telling the council there were other people who deserved to have a building named for them, she said. But secretly, “I think actually he was pleased as punch.”
The late Gerald Smith, a fellow artist and friend, created the portrait of Mlacak. Kirsten donated it to the city after her father’s death and it was hung in the centre.
“I had the honour of knowing John and what he did for the community both as an elected representative, as a member of the NCC and as a great artist,” said Watson, who presented Mlacak with the Lucille Broadbent Award for Artistic Achievement in 2010. “He’s an individual who’s never looking for credit or accolades but quietly did the work behind the scenes to help make this part of the city the special place it is.”