Incumbent mayor John Dooley will face a challenge in next month’s election from the reincarnated spirit of the city’s founding mayor.
Local theatre impresario Richard Rowberry says he will run on behalf of John Houston — and expects to receive votes despite the fact Houston died more than a century ago.
“I am possessed by the ghost of John Houston,” Rowberry says. “He wants to run for mayor and I’m going to help him do it. People can’t vote for a dead man, but they can vote for a live man who is in touch with a dead man.”
Rowberry says last year, on the 100th anniversary of Houston’s death, he made a pilgrimage to the Houston monument on Vernon Street.
“I was struck by how little attention was being paid to this fairly significant anniversary,” he says. “So I went down to pay my respects and as I looked at it, I felt this presence enter me and this rather gruff, slightly slurred voice speak to me: ‘I want to run for mayor again, and I want you to do it, since you’re the only person around.’”
Rowberry has developed a Houston-inspired platform that calls for the city to marshal its various resources, including environmental, heritage, arts, cultural and wilderness tourism potential.
He also applied to the Columbia Basin Trust for funding to develop a website about Houston, which will be online soon.
Houston, who founded Nelson’s first two newspapers, was elected mayor following the city’s incorporation in 1897 and served several more terms through 1905.
He was involved in developing a power company and streetcar system — and then got the city to buy and operate both.
Rowberry acknowledged the questionable aspects of Houston’s character, including his fondness for alcohol and vitriolic racism.
“I don’t want to gloss over some of the unsavoury aspects of the time and John Houston’s willingness to participate in them,” he says.
Houston was a founder of the BC Conservative party, which then advocated removing Asians from the province.
“There’s no doubt that was a black mark on politics in those days. I don’t think it was exclusive to John Houston,” Rowberry says.
Although he’s not certain what name will appear on the ballot, he’s hoping it will read “Richard (John Houston) Rowberry.”
Charlesworth out, Kiss and Jeanes in
City councillor Kim Charlesworth ended much speculation about her own mayoral ambitions Tuesday by announcing she will not seek re-election at all.
Charlesworth said it was a tough decision, but the timing isn’t right — she plans to travel in Europe with her family in the coming months, and in North America next year.
Although she plans to return to the area, she says it will likely be to a more rural area.
As of early Thursday afternoon, two more contenders had stepped forward for city council: Paula Kiss, owner of The Building Tree, and Charles Jeanes, who has run before unsuccessfully for both mayor and councillor.