Ex-Naval Commander takes Helm at Commissionaires

Darron Kloster, Times Colonist

A career navy man who went to sea as a 17-year-old and rose to commander of destroyers and minesweepers is the new chief executive of the Commissionaires.

John Dewar takes the helm of the 900-employee organization that provides parking enforcement and security for Victoria, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Yukon from Stan Verran, who is retiring after 10 years at the post.

Dewar, a Vancouver native raised in Calgary, spent more than three decades in the navy, serving on both coasts and several deployments, including administrative stints at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa and as a liaison with the U.S. Navy in Norfolk, Virginia. Over his career, Dewar commanded HMCS Chignecto and Miramichi as well as the Huron.

He was most recently vice-president of strategic services for Upper Lakes Shipyards in St. Catharines, Ont., where he helped divest family ownership of the company.

Taking over the Commissionaires is both a challenge and a further call to duty for Dewar. He said the Commissionaires were formed after the First World War as a non-profit “to provide meaningful employment for veterans.”

“And that still exists today,” said Dewar. “The perception of Commissionaires is it’s just a bunch of old veterans, and that’s not the case. Many veterans now are younger – having served in Afghanistan – and they are vibrant with many different technical skills that can be applicable to security.”

Dewar said the majority of veterans don’t qualify for full pensions because they have to serve more than 20 years, so the Commissionaires provide steady work.

The corps also includes many former RCMP and police officers.

“They need jobs and the organization provides them,” said Dewar. ” And they do their work with integrity.”

Dewar said although most people associate Commissionaires with parking enforcement, the group also provides security for special events and to public buildings throughout its jurisdiction, including the B.C. legislature, Royal B.C. Museum and some churches. They also provide technological and administrative security services for public and private organizations.

Dewar said the future of the Commissionaires is strong. “We stick to our mandate for providing meaningful employment, but we have to continue to identify opportunities in the industry,” he said. “That means adapting to changes and exploring other areas as we grow our business.”

Paula Skippon, chairman of the Commissionaires board of governors, said Dewar has a “proven track record” of building trust and team work. “The board is confident he has the passion and vision to build upon the strong foundation that Stan Verran has built for us as the largest security provider in the region.”