Councillor Paula Kiss and Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall were present for the announcement of Deb Kozak’s historic election as Nelson’s first female mayor this evening, while councillors Candace Batycki and Donna Macdonald weren’t far behind in offering their tearful congratulations.
“I think this is a great day. Nelson just elected our first woman mayor,” said Mungall, who served on council from 2002 to 2005. “We’ve had the right to vote for 96 years and now we have our first woman mayor. Deb’s made history.”
The departure of Macdonald, Batycki and Kiss became a controversial issue in this election, as some claimed they left due to incumbent Mayor John Dooley’s aggressive leadership style. They expressed their hope to the Star that Kozak’s leadership will bring about a more collaborative environment in council chambers.
Mungall said she has great faith in Kozak. “I think Deb’s going to be the type of mayor that listens to the broad community regardless of political stripe. She’s about community, she’s about good, well thought out decision-making and getting the public involved,” she said.
“I was really happy to see Deb elected. I think she’s a great communicator. I like her style. She wants to empower people and I like that,” said Kiss. She believes Kozak will see to fruition some of the plans they created over the last term.
“I would like to see really good adherence to the community’s various plans: our active transportation plan, our downtown waterfront master plan. I think there are a lot of initiatives we can start working on and the council going in now will be able to see those come together.”
Kiss said she expects communication with the regional district to improve under Kozak’s leadership.
Donna Macdonald, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1996 and 1999, said she was thrilled by the news.
“I’m delighted to see our first woman mayor,” she said. “Deb is a good leader and she’ll work well with this new council, where there’s a good blend of experience and bright new ideas.”
Macdonald and Batycki said the achievement marks a cultural evolution that started with the election of council member Annie Garland Foster in 1920.
“It’s taken a while to get a female mayor, and every female politician has played a role in getting to this point,” said Batycki. “I think it’s going to be a dynamic and exciting term.”
Macdonald said she was pleased with how the election went.
“It was about ideas, about directions. It wasn’t about nattering or personalities,” she said. And though she’s thrilled at Kozak’s win, she was quick to express her admiration for Dooley.
“I’ve seen him tonight and he seems to be moving forward in a really positive way. I’ve worked with five different mayors. He was my fifth and final one. It was a really interesting experience and I have a lot of respect for John,” she said.
Batycki and Macdonald said they plan to be cheering Kozak from “the sidelines”.
“I think Deb will bring a new era of collaboration,” said Macdonald.