Deb Kozak was elected Nelson's first female mayor on November 15.

2014’s top stories No. 4: Local elections bring change

When the dust settled following November’s civic elections, Nelson, Salmo, Slocan, and Kaslo all had new mayors.

When the dust settled following November’s civic elections, Nelson, Salmo, Slocan, and Kaslo all had new mayors.

Nelson’s race pitted three-time incumbent John Dooley against three-term councillor Deb Kozak and retired police officer Pat Severyn. The campaign was marked by rampant vandalism of Severyn’s distinctive mustache signs and intimations that Dooley didn’t always give others on council the chance to speak — something he denied.

Marijuana reform group SensibleBC got involved. They wanted Dooley replaced and their phone poll indicated Kozak had a better chance of success than Severyn, so they endorsed her.

On election day, Kozak prevailed to become the first woman ever elected to the city’s highest office. Severyn ran a distant third, but may have played spoiler, as he arguably siphoned some of Dooley’s support. Kozak’s margin of victory was less than 300 votes.

A jubilant Kozak told supporters: “I’ve had the privilege of working with so many good, good people who stand up in the community. I’ve talked to everyone in this room about their ideas and where we need to go. Yes, there are challenges, but we have so many things to be grateful for.”

Dooley was dealt a severe blow shortly before the election by the sudden death of his brother Frank and said he’d had “an absolutely devastating week.”

Although disappointed to lose, Dooley said he was comforted that his successor would be Kozak, not Severyn: “We’ve worked very closely together over the years. We’ve got a lot of planning in place. Pat Severyn had no experience and no knowledge of how the community works, so he probably would have set us back.” He later said he felt Severyn acted disrespectfully towards him.

Severyn was glad Kozak was elected and said he didn’t regret running for mayor instead of council. “Not for a second. I don’t know if I could be on council the way operations are going. Now there’s a fresh mayor, she’s been on council, she has something to say and we have a whole bunch of new councillors. This city is going to be invigorated.”

Incumbents Bob Adams and Robin Cherbo were re-elected, along with former councillor Janice Morrison and newcomers Anna Purcell (who topped the polls), Michael Dailly, and Valerie Warmington. Turnout was about 53 per cent.

In Slocan, two-term mayor Madeleine Perriere and councillor Hillary Elliott arranged to trade places.

However, on the last day of nominations — which was extended on account of the search for Peter De Groot, which virtually shut down the village for several days — councillor Jessica Lunn added her name to the mayor’s race. The outcome was among the closest in the region: Lunn beat Elliott by ten votes. Slocan’s turnout of just under 69 per cent was second highest in West Kootenay/Boundary.

In Salmo, voters had plenty of choice as there were three candidates for mayor and 12 for council. While incumbent mayor Ann Henderson didn’t seek re-election, three incumbent councillors did. All were defeated. Frequent council watcher and critic Stephen White was elected mayor.

In Kaslo, Suzan Hewat became the village’s second female mayor, defeating both incumbent Greg Lay and former mayor Pat Mackle.

In the Regional District of Central Kootenay, incumbents Ramona Faust (Rural Nelson) and Hans Cunningham (Rural Salmo) were re-elected, Tom Newell was elected to replace the retiring Ron Mickel (Rural Nelson), and Aimee Watson was chosen to succeed Andy Shadrack (Rural Kaslo). Several other directors were acclaimed. Nakusp’s Karen Hamling was subsequently chosen the board’s first female chair.

A referendum on funding a conservation service for Area A (East Shore), Area D (Rural Kaslo), and Area E (Rural Nelson) was narrowly approved, while another referendum on renovating the Riondel community centre was soundly defeated.

The Kootenay Lake school district saw races in Nelson, where Curtis Bendig and incumbent Bill Maslechko were elected trustees, and for the North and East Shores of Kootenay Lake where incumbent Lenora Trenaman retained her seat. Bob Wright, Sharon Nazaroff, and incumbent Dawn Lang were acclaimed to represent Salmo, the Slocan Valley, and Kaslo respectively. Tremanan has since been elected board chair.