Major Max Snow vividly remembers that night in 1958. Curled up next to his little transistor radio, he was listening fearfully to the aftermath of the infamous “bump”—an underground upheaval—in Springhill, N.S., when a mine accident killed 74 miners.
“As a young Salvationist in Newfoundland,” says Major Snow, “I prayed for the families, rejoiced at each rescue and mourned each loss.”
Little could he have realized, not only would he become the corps officer at Springhill, but he would eventually become the town’s mayor.
Journey to Springhill
“I was born and rocked in a Salvation Army cradle, as they say in Newfoundland and Labrador,” says Major Snow.
Though his parents were soldiers at the corps in Lewisporte, N.L., a life in The Salvation Army was not top-of-mind for Major Snow, though he did marry a woman with a Salvation Army background.
Instead, he worked as a branch manager for an auto-parts company, managed a gasoline service station and even rented snowmobiles in northern Manitoba.
The idea of responding to God’s call was never far from mind, but when he broached the idea with his wife, Doris demurred, even though her brother was a former officer and her sister was one.
“I left it at that,” says Major Snow, “but I knew God, in his wisdom, would work things out.”
One day, out of the blue, Doris suggested they attend an upcoming information seminar on becoming Salvation Army officers.
“I knew then God had been speaking to her as well,” says Major Snow. “So we did, the decision was made and we headed off to the college in Toronto.”
Commissioned in the early 1980s, the Snows were appointed to Fredericton, then Springhill, N.S.
“We had six lovely years at Springhill,” he says. “It was a great town to live in, with great people.”
When it was time to move to Westville, N.S., the Snow children, by then young adults, decided to stay. They married and eventually had children of their own.
After Westville, further assignments led the Snows to Saint John, N.B., Toronto and New Waterford, N.S., which was their last corps before retiring in 2002.
They decided to live in Springhill to be near their children and grandchildren.
“Poppy and Nan were needed,” Major Snow smiles.
Running the Race
Too restless to simply “retire,” Major Snow served as a commissioner with Springhill’s Police Services for two years. Running for office was a natural transition.
“As a pastor, I was used to reaching out to people one on one so running for mayor wasn’t that much of a stretch,” he says. “I’d also taken leadership courses over the years at The Salvation Army and I felt that I had something to offer to Springhill, though I would be very much reliant on God to lead me in the way he would have me go.”
Major Snow declared his candidacy in February 2012, nine months before the October election. He started early, took university and government seminars on running an effective campaign, and assembled a hard-working team.
“I prepared well,” says Major Snow. “It’s like you learn in The Salvation Army: if you don’t prepare, prepare for failure. And I’ve always kept that in my mind.”
Election night had Major Snow anxiously watching the results at the town hall, but by 9:00, it became clear that he had won a tight race against the incumbent, by a narrow but hard-fought-for 44 votes.
The newly elected mayor and his council now face the challenge of running the city.
“We live and serve in a complex society,” says Major Snow. “My mission is to be worthy of my calling as a Salvation Army officer, lead my town and live up to the fullness of Christ.”
Major Snow never forgot his first encounter with the citizens of Springhill, however. He found out that many of the survivors of the “bump” were still alive, and resolved to contact them.
“I’ve had the privilege of praying with them, and I’ve stood by their gravesides and took part in their funeral services,” says Major Snow.
As mayor, Major Snow makes a habit of leaving his office every morning to walk down the main street and talk to the people he leads. Springhill is a town with an aging population and attracting new industry to the town is an ongoing concern, but he is determined to do what is right for his new hometown.
“I’m looking forward to serving Springhill and serving God well, and I know that he’s going to help me to overcome whatever difficulties and challenges come my way.”