Barry Hicken served as Prince Edward Island’s Minister of Environmental Resources in the Catherine Callbeck Liberal government in the mid-1990s, a time when I was working with the province on the first iteration of its website.
Barry was well-regarded in this role, and well known, at least inside the provincial public service, for signing things with a green pen.
I don’t know why this fact about him stuck with me, but it did, and I’ve told the story of “Barry Hicken and his green pen” many times in the years since (I’m the kind of person who has conversations about things like ink and pens, where these things come up more than might be typical).
This morning I was sitting across from a friend in Casa Mia in downtown Charlottetown, and who should come in the door and sit at the next table over, but the selfsame Barry Hicken.
I couldn’t help but bring up the green pen, especially as I myself carry a green pen everywhere I go, one I purchased at MUJI in May in Berlin:
Barry smiled , reached into his pocket, and pulled out his own green pen. Some habits never die.
He then related how his write-in-green-pen system started: when he became Minister, he asked everyone in the office if they had a green pen. When the universal answer was “no,” he replied, “okay, nobody start” and then set down the rule that only he was to use a green pen. As a result, everyone in the department knew that when they saw something in green pen, it had come from the Minister.