Retired Nelson city administrator Doug Ormond, who has died at 78, is being praised by former colleagues and politicians alike for his steady hand on local government. Ormond held the top job at Nelson city hall for 20 years and was honoured as a freeman upon his retirement in 1995.
“When I was a newly-elected councillor, Doug was a wise, supportive and encouraging mentor,” says Donna Macdonald, who joined council in 1988. “That continued, whether we were travelling to Zimbabwe or just exploring the intricacies of Nelson life. I miss him a lot.”
Born in Sydney, N.S., Ormond grew up on a family farm. He moved to Nakusp in 1955 where he worked in the logging industry while taking courses in municipal administration. He spent nine years as clerk/treasurer in Golden and two years as administrator in Fort St. John before taking the same position in Nelson in 1975.
Retired city clerk Marla Olson, who worked closely with him for many years, says he was always even-tempered, through tough times personally and professionally: “Even when he was angry or upset at someone or something, he would always compose himself and I am sure even those who were on his bad side thought he was a gentleman.”
Ormond had a difficult job which sometimes took its toll, Olson says, but it was never apparent to council, staff, or the public. “He supported me in many ways and I had the greatest respect for him. He was honourable and humble. He worked hard, was very organized and very knowledgeable about municipal government. He was one of my favourite bosses.”
Former public works director and current city councillor Bob Adams agrees: “He was a great guy to work for. He was excellent at what he did.”
Adams says Nelson was well-represented at a memorial service over the weekend in Chemainus, where Ormond and his wife retired following stops in Penticton and Summerland. Former city treasurer Lloyd Moseley delivered the eulogy.
“One of his co-workers said Doug was the ‘epitome of a perfect gentleman,’” Moseley says. “He was very smart, very kind. Never did I hear him use profanity.”
Moseley, who came to city hall less than a year after Ormond, added: “You never worked for Doug, you worked with Doug. People have told me we made a good team but they don’t know we had many arguments before I realized he was right.
”I’ll remember him as a very humble man, very community oriented. He never went after raises for himself. He would always say if you’re worth it, people around you will realize it.”
Ormond served under six mayors — Tex Mowatt, Louis Maglio, Mac McAdams, Gerald Rotering, Bill Ramsden, and Gary Exner.
Rotering called Ormond a father figure and “wonderful mentor.” First elected mayor at 33, Rotering was nearly 20 years younger than Ormond, which sometimes led to mistaken identity. “I recall fondly how on our first trip to meet cabinet ministers at the Legislature some of them would presume — logically — that he was mayor and I was his assistant.”
Rotering says Ormond had no detectable ego, wanted no limelight, and didn’t care who received credit for resolving an issue or accomplishing a project, as long as Nelson’s civic interest was served. “He and Lloyd Moseley jointly gave me and our council honest advice that we ignored at our peril.”
Ormond could sum up issues well, Rotering adds. He once cautioned council about accepting a donation because although it would be an asset, it would need to be maintained. “These free things keep costing us money,” he quipped.
“Yet when we bought the Fairview university campus from the province for $1, Doug and Lloyd said they’d make it work, and they amassed $300,000 to make the campus an economic performer,” Rotering says. (When Ormond obtained his masters degree in municipal administration, the campus was his thesis subject.)
Ormond’s tenure as city manager coincided with the city’s downturn of the early 1980s following the closure of its sawmill and university and subsequent heritage revitalization of Baker Street.
“I always got along great with him,” says Bob Inwood, mainstreet project co-ordinator in those days. “He was a major supporter of the program. I had very smooth and amiable dealings with Doug. I thought he was a prince of a guy and could always count on him to put in a good word for the revite concept.”
Inwood says Ormond was excited by the project and could see the big picture at a time when others were more skeptical: “In terms of facilitating things, he was one of those ‘let’s make it work’ kind of guys, not ‘find ways that it couldn’t work.’”
Also occurring on Ormond’s watch was the 1992 conversion of the former RCMP station into the present library and city police headquarters — the library went to referendum multiple times before the combined building was finally approved.
When Nelson formed a sister city relationship with Mutare, Zimbabwe, he was part of the first delegation. He wrote of that trip: “I will never forget the experience … You will have to have been there and experienced it to understand what it was like. The immense and beautiful country and city and its wonderful people will be with me forever.”
Ormond served on several community organizations in Golden and Nelson, including hospital and police boards, and was a charter member of Nelson’s Daybreak Rotary club.
Ormond, who passed away August 20 following a stroke, is survived by Margaret, his wife of 54 years, who served on the Nelson school board. He’s also survived by two sisters, a brother, one son, three daughters and several grandchildren. He was predeceased by another son and a brother.