Mayor Deb Kozak has decided to run for re-election.
She says when she was elected in 2014 she promised not to shy away from hard conversations, and she says she has fulfilled that commitment, having held community discussions about cannabis, housing, short term rentals, and concerns about the downtown.
“We have not pleased everybody, but we have heard everybody,” she says.
Meanwhile, former mayor John Dooley, rumoured to be planning another run, opened an Instagram account in August under the name mayor_dooley. He told the Star this is not an indication of whether he intends to be a candidate.
Kozak says her campaign will concentrate on three main issues: wildfire emergency preparedness, drinking water security, and a shared vision for the future of Nelson.
“One of the top priories of council has been emergency preparedness. We tasked our fire chief to assess the planning we had in place and build on that, and in 2017 Len MacCharles came forward with a plan. Council agreed that more detail was needed, and we have said lets move forward on that.”
She said that although the city has always worked in concert with the regional district on emergency planning, council has opened its own emergency planning office because “the city of Nelson has some unique needs and we need to address those ourselves and make sure we are ready. We can bump up to 16,000 people every day, with tourism and people coming to town to work and students, and we need to be ready.”
Kozak points out that the city does not own its own water source — it exists in the regional district and in West Arm Provincial Park — and that the city needs to stay aware of how logging and wildfires could affect the city’s water supply.
“For example, this year Kalesnikoff Lumber is doing some activity in Selous Creek, and our council took tours with Kalesnikoff foresters and went up there and looked at what they were planning to do, and we have been working with them to make sure watershed is not disturbed. I think the logging companies have to work strongly with FireSmart principles, not just clearcutting, and make sure they are working with communities. I would say smaller local companies are doing that. But I don’t have any qualms about speaking out if we think something is not right.”
As for planning for the future, Kozak says, “A lot of public consultation and expert input went into developing the shared vision for Nelson contained in the plans adopted by previous councils. I want to oversee the continuity of this work in bringing those shared plans to life. These plans include the shared use of public spaces, the long term vision for Railtown and the implementation of the Path to 2040.”
Asked about the controversial issues on the downtown streets, Kozak said, “The issues of poverty and homelessness are not the issues of local governments. These are the issues of province and federal levels. We have had a lot of negative feedback on how we have approached homelessness and addictions, but we are recognized in the province and by other municipalities for the work we are doing and people want to know more about how we are approaching these issues with compassion and with common sense. I stand by what we have done. We are doing the best we can and are not going to stop.”
So far, Kozak is the only candidate for mayor. Prospective candidates for mayor and council have until Sept. 14 to register with Elections BC. Voting day is Oct. 20.