There are five candidates running to be Nelson’s mayor in the Oct. 15 general elections. They include incumbent John Dooley and councillor Janice Morrison, as well as John Buffery, Tom Prior and Mike Zeabin. Below are conversations with Buffery, Prior and Zeabin.
John Buffery wants to lead the city as it faces what he believes will be future population and transportation challenges.
Buffery works as a technical advisor for the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s avalanche program. He points to Nelson’s population growth — census data released in February shows the city has grown by 534 people since 2016 — as reason for concern.
“I can see the freight train of population growth coming in really hard and fast. And I would really like to make sure that we have some good guidelines for the values that I see with likeminded people who I hang out with where we’re seeing change coming.”
Buffery defines those values as a shared understanding, among Nelson’s citizens, of the hard work of living in and appreciating the city.
Buffery has lived in Nelson since 1979. He says he has no criticism of the current mayor and council, but believes he can bring an energy to the city that will bridge the needs of new and old residents.
Transportation, he says as an example, needs to be prioritized to improve how commuters enter and exit the city while also making it safe for pedestrians and people who ride electric bikes.
His concern is backed by annual motor vehicle incident data provided by ICBC that shows the city’s worst intersection is at its southwest entrance. In 2021 there were 14 crashes at the intersection of Highway 3A, Government Road and Granite Road, six of which caused either injury or fatality.
Buffery defines his current job as risk management, and believes it has prepared him for the role of mayor.
“It’s all about opportunity, understanding the threats, knowing the uncertainties that are involved and reducing those uncertainties through either knowledge, experience, discussion, and then identifying what you may not know and trying to deal with as well.”
Tom Prior, a 40-year resident of Nelson, says his reason for running for mayor is, “out with the old, in with the new. That’s the feeling around town.”
Prior calls the operation of the city inefficient, citing waste management and snow removal practices, although he had no suggestions for improvement other than “use common sense.”
He said other examples of inefficiency are the lawsuit City of Nelson v. Marchi, in which resident Taryn Marchi successfully challenged the city’s snow removal policy at the Supreme Court of Canada. Prior also refers to an internal investigation of officers within the Nelson Police Department for alleged racist comments, and “just a myriad of other things that are embarrassing.”
Prior said he supports the police force but it is inefficient.
“I mean, we’ve got one officer walking the beat. I think we can have four officers. I think it’s actually kind of dangerous for that young officer out there by himself. He’s the only one that walks the streets.”
Prior is critical of incumbent mayor John Dooley.
“He’s not innovative enough and he’s not visionary. He’s caught in 20th century politics, but we need to get into the 21st century … I think he has some good councillors, but I don’t think they’ve been able to overcome the mayor.”
He said he does not attend council meetings.
Prior said he runs a market garden and is retired from a downtown business – Mountain Pass Imports – that he owned for 25 years on Baker Street, and this qualifies him as mayor because of his “entrepreneurial way of looking at things.”
This entrepreneurial bent is balanced, he said, by his strong reputation as an environmental advocate.
“That’s obvious, right? I mean, it’s kind of hard to deny.”
Prior said that he understands Indigenous politics, and that he identifies as Métis “because my mother was French Canadian.”
The needs of seniors and changes to garbage pick-up are why Mike Zeabin says he is running to be mayor.
Zeabin, who is 80 years old, says his campaign was in part inspired by conversations with other seniors who say they require improved municipal transit on Sundays. That’s something as mayor he wants to make a case for with BC Transit.
Other issues faced by seniors are among Zeabin’s campaign promises. He says he wants to change the location of the Wednesday farmers’ market on Baker Street because it currently blocks parking elderly residents need.
“I would try to make some accommodation at the foot of Baker Street. There’s lots of room there, I’d make some arrangement with our chamber of commerce [which owns the visitor’s centre parking lot].”
Baker Street is a focus for Zeabin, who thinks there should be more public washrooms downtown. Currently there is only one at Hall Street and Baker. During Nelson Road Kings, Zeabin said he was annoyed by a lineup for the one available washroom.
Zeabin also wants biweekly garbage pickup changed to a weekly schedule to deter bears. Seven bears have already been euthanized in Nelson this year.
“I’ve seen maggots crawling out of the garbage can by these older people’s place. … In heat like this, it made the bears (come).
“I think it would improve the living matters here in Nelson.”
Zeabin has spent his entire life in Nelson. In conversation he reminisces about how life was in the city of his youth and name-drops former mayor Louis Maglio, whom Zeabin calls a friend.
Zeabin worked in the forestry industry, and says he wants to see an end to logging near community watersheds.
“We’ve got to stop butchering our forests here especially around where we get our water supply. That is very important. … We live in the city, we can not cut the forest down. Money isn’t everything.”