After 22 years in politics, Roland Butler had his swan song May 14.
His retirement celebration was held in Shearstown, where he’s lived for more than three decades.
More than 275 Liberals and friends turned out at the Lions Club to honour the MHA for Port de Grave district, who will not run in the Oct. 11 provincial general election.
Butler said he was leaving politics with mixed emotions, and for personal reasons, and not because of any discontent with the party or its leader, Yvonne Jones.
Jones praised Butler and his wife, Maude, saying they had made tremendous contributions to the district and the province, and “lifted up so many people in their lives.”
Butler’s interest in politicals dates to his boyhood on Flat Island/Port Elizabeth, Placentia Bay, where he was born in 1945.
During a nostalgic address, he had his audience in stitches — and tears — spinning yarns from those early days.
Butler inherited his love of politics from his father, who was also a diehard Liberal.
He remembers bringing home a political leaflet that had been dropped from an airplane when he was seven or eight.
“When my father opened it up, it turned out to be the literature for the Tory candidate. He said, ‘If you leave this house with either piece of that paper, I’ll cut your two legs off tight to your arse.’ And he probably would have,” Butler said to gales of laughter.
While Butler’s first successful attempt at elected politics came in 2001, it was not his first foray into the political arena.
In 1972, the year Frank Moores wrestled the reins of power from Joey Smallwood after 23 years at the helm, Butler recalls driving by the Confederation Building with his wife.
“I’m going to work in that building one of these days,” he told her.
When the Liberal nominations were called for Port de Grave in that election, eight names were put forward. Butler came in seventh.
Maude’s response was, “So much for going to the Confederation Building.”
During the next 17 years of Tory rule, Butler remained loyal to the Liberals and was active in the district association.
“In 1989 my call came,” Butler said. “I was laying brick in Carbonear and John Efford asked me if I wanted a job, a good job as his (executive assistant).”
Butler didn’t know what that entailed.
“‘That’s a feller I hires on who helps look after me in the district,’ Efford explained. So I said, ‘Yes boy, I’ll try that.’ And I guess the rest is history.”
Butler said he and Efford have had their share of disagreements over the years, but added, “I owe a lot of credit to John Efford. He was there when I started and I appreciate that to this very day.”
Last October, when hundreds of people attended a fundraising roast for Butler, Efford was noticeably not among them.
Butler entered elected politics in 2001, when the Liberal party was self-destructing in the aftermath of a bitter leadership contest between Efford and Roger Grimes.
Then Danny Williams came on the scene for the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals have struggled ever since, winning just three seats in the 2007 provincial election.
Butler said his family supported him through it all, “with not one negative comment from any of them,” despite the long hours, constant phone calls and scores of public functions.
Butler said he’s learned many lessons.
“I think the most important one is don’t judge people from what you see on the outside. It’s what they feel and are going through on the inside that counts. You may think they are rich and have everything in this life. And that may be true for some, but not all.
“If a person is not working … you may say, ‘He’s too lazy to work.’ Don’t do that, because he probably can’t work. I’ve learned that.”
He said during his career he heard from eight constituents who were threatening to commit suicide.
“I try walking in their shoes, because there’s nothing minor about them in 99 per cent of the cases,” he said.
So, what will life bring after politics? He’s had offers, but is not ready to make any commitments. He’s even been asked — by three different denominations — to become a clergyman.
He hinted he was interested in a suggestion that he write a book based on the rancorous 2001 leadership race.
Perhaps the best suggestion came from Maude, his partner of 45 years.
“Do nuttin’ and stay home,” she advised.