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Father of kidnapped tot runs for Sparwood council

Paul Hebert at his home in Sparwood, B.C. September 12, 2011.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

For seven harrowing days in September, Paul Hebert was the public face of a parent's worst imagining, his three-year old son kidnapped, whereabouts and fate unknown.

Yet, before the cameras, while a transfixed nation fretted, the 36-year-old father of young Kienan Hebert was an oasis of calm, coolly calling on the kidnapper to return his son. The kidnapper did.

Now, in a turn some may find surprising, Mr. Hebert is back in the public eye, although this time, an entire country isn't looking on.

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He is one of 10 candidates vying this month for six council seats in the small, southeastern B.C. community of Sparwood, scene of the kidnapping and home to the large Hebert family for the past two-and-a-half years.

The terrible ordeal he and his family experienced less than two months ago is not why he's running, Mr. Hebert hastened to explain on Monday.

But it did firm up his year-old inclination to become more involved in the place where he lives.

"What happened re-affirmed that I can stay steadfast at a time of crisis," said Mr. Hebert. "I can think things through, before I actually act on impulse."

Nor did he fail to notice the large, heartwarming numbers of townspeople who came forward to search for Kienan in the first few days of his disappearance.

Wanting to be part of local decisionmaking is a way of giving back, he said.

"It reinforced even more why I wanted to serve the community. These are good people, and I want to work hard for these good people."

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No one could accuse Mr. Hebert of going all out on his first foray into politics. His total budget is $300, for 25 campaign signs that encourage electors to "Vote Paul, a voice for all citizens."

"You put your name out there, and if you're in, you're in. If you're not, you're not," said Mr. Hebert, with a hearty laugh.

Above all, he doesn't want people to think he's cast his hat into the ring because he has some agenda arising out of the kidnapping.

"That's not my thinking at all. We simply want to make Sparwood our home, and I felt this was definitely a good start in moving forward," Mr. Hebert said. "If I don't make it, I will run again next time."

Acting mayor Sharon Fraser, a veteran of 25 years on Sparwood council, thinks Mr. Hebert may be a bit too much of a newcomer to win over the locals. "You could be here for more than 20 years, and you'd still be 'new' to some people."

But Ms. Fraser said she also believed that view is starting to change, and she gladly signed Mr. Hebert's nomination papers.

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"I find him very honest. They want to fit in, and he thinks this is the best way to do that. It's also a way for Paul to say: 'Thank you. You were all there for me.'"

Meanwhile, Mr. Hebert said Kienan continues to show no ill-effects from being snatched by the kidnapper, held, then returned.

Randall Hopley, 46, has been charged with kidnapping, abduction and breaking and entering.

The difference between Kienan's emotions and those of his older children is striking, Mr. Hebert said.

"When Kienan sees Hopley on TV, he just says, 'Oh, there's Hopley.' He actually calls him Jason. He's not afraid of him, or anything like that.

"But when the other children see him on TV, it's like: 'Oh, there's the bad guy.' And Kienan says, "No, that's just Jason."

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