Gary Wright was mayor of New Denver for 22 years. Now he's turned his hand to writing his memoirs.

Former New Denver mayor publishes memoir

In his new book, Gary Wright explains how he went from being on the FBI’s wanted list to a Queen’s Jubilee Medal recipient.

At 14, Gary Wright made a list of personal goals. Among them: become mayor of a small town, record an album, and write a book.

The first he achieved in spades, leading New Denver village council for over 22 years. The second he accomplished as a sideman. And on Saturday he’ll fulfill the third with the launch of Unrepentant: The Story of an Era, a series of vignettes that chronicle his journey from exiled American to distinguished Canadian.

“One year you’re stateless and wanted by the FBI, another year you get the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for public service,” he mused in an interview this week. “Life is like that: strange and wonderful. My personal philosophy has been ‘Be yourself and chaos is bound to follow.’”

Wright, 65, was born in Montana to what he describes as a “right wing, Republican family,” who taught him the value of principles — which he followed, much to their chagrin.

Although his father was in the army, and he grew up in military bases around the United States, Wright rebelled and became involved with Students for a Democratic Society, a radical anti-war group. He also volunteered to take medical supplies to Vietnam, raising the ire of the American government.

He first came to Canada in 1967, but “was thrown out because the people at immigration decided I would never make a good Canadian.”

Undeterred, he tried again the following year. By then, he’d been placed on internal exile by the US State Department and had his passport revoked. Trying to leave the country could have resulted in a lengthy prison sentence if caught.

But he took the chance anyway, and later renounced his American citizenship. His draft number had by that time come up, giving him extra incentive to stay in Canada. (Although he could have registered as a conscientious objector at one point, Wright says that didn’t much appeal to him.)

He did a variety of jobs, including psychological research for the University of Western Ontario, supervisor at a troubled kids centre, and marriage counsellor. The latter didn’t last long because after a couple of meetings, he recommended his first clients divorce. (“They didn’t want to hear that.”)

Wright became a naturalized citizen in 1974, but his attendance at the ceremony in Vancouver was “necessarily brief” because he was a cabbie at the time, and “double-parked the cab in order to run into the courthouse to pick up my papers — but it was still memorable.”

The year after he and his first wife moved to New Denver. They’d visited friends in nearby Hills and concluded it would be a good place to raise a family. Wright was on the road a lot, however, playing guitar in rock bands and later, once he “couldn’t turn somersaults on stage anymore,” country and western groups.

His first taste of local government came in the mid-1980s on the local recreation commission, and then in 1989 he was tapped by mayor Ken Casley to fill a vacancy on council, minutes before the nomination deadline. A few months later Casley resigned for health reasons and Wright took his place, remaining until retirement last year. Soon after he began working on the book.

Wright has contributed to magazines and newspapers before and authored a book about New Denver’s Appletree sandwich shop, but says writing about himself was different and fun.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a lifetime so once I stopped writing memos and got into a different style that’s fairly natural to me, it just came. You don’t have to work a lot on plot.”

The book includes a chapter by Corky Evans, another American emigre to the Slocan Valley who made it big in Canadian politics, providing what Wright calls a “stereoscopic look at a couple of people the United States spit out who did not too badly up here.”

The book launch is Saturday at the Appletree from 2 to 4 p.m. Readings and signings are also scheduled for Saturday, November 10 at 3 p.m. at the Vallican Whole; Sunday, November 25 at 1 p.m. at the Slocan library; and Saturday, December 1 at the Nakusp library.

Copies are already available in Nelson at Otter and Coles books and it’s available for download as a Kindle ebook. Wright has further produced a limited edition with a soundtrack CD, consisting of songs he and wife DJ recorded that fit the book’s storyline.

Just Posted

Nelson Women’s March joins others across globe

The event was held to promote equality and an end to violence against women

Leafs stretch winning streak to 8 games

Nelson downed Grand Forks 5-2 on Friday

RDCK moves ahead with Castlegar rec complex upgrade plan

Board approves grant application for $13 million from provincial, federal governments

Cottonwood Lake preservation group surpasses $50,000 fundraising goal

In 28 days, 393 donors have contributed to the fund

Last of southern Selkirk caribou relocated to Revelstoke area

One cow from the South Selkirk herd and two from the Purcells were moved this week

Self serve doggy-wash poised to change dog grooming industry

Add money, start spraying to wash dog in the K9000

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Burnaby byelection turmoil sparks debate about identity issues in politics

The Liberals still have not said whether they plan to replace Wang, who stepped aside Wednesday

Most Read