The front page of the Nelson Star of January 2

Newsmaker of the year: Deb Kozak

For defeating a three-term incumbent to become Nelson’s first female mayor, the Star has named Deb Kozak its 2014 Newsmaker of the Year.

For defeating a three-term incumbent to become Nelson’s first female mayor, the Star has named Deb Kozak its 2014 Newsmaker of the Year.

As she was sworn in last month, Kozak said it was “no small thing to be the first woman elected mayor in 117 years” and that she “felt the weight of the chain of office” on her shoulders — similar to what Annie Garland Foster must have felt when she became the first woman elected to city council in 1920.

Kozak, a popular city councillor first elected in 2005, had long been rumored to be mulling a run for mayor before she finally confirmed it in September.

“I’m really relieved that I’ve come to a decision, because I’ve wrestled with it for months,” she said. “It’s time. I’ve been on council nine years and I thought ‘throw your hat in.’”

Kozak, 60, moved to Nelson from her native Saskatchewan when her husband Peter was offered a job in the area.

“I’ve loved Nelson ever since I stepped foot in it,” she said. “I’ve been passionate about working and volunteering in the public and private sectors. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people, and for me the most important part of this community is its diversity and passion. I want to see that continue.”

Her arrival in 1983 coincided with the city’s economic downturn, “a very frightening time,” but she was impressed by city council’s “bold step” toward rejuvenating Baker Street.

During her campaign, Kozak said she welcomed “difficult conversations” and anticipated affordable housing would be a key issue. Although housing is the responsibility of other levels of governments, she said the municipality can play a role. She has proposed further reductions to water and sewer rates.

Around 8:30 p.m. on November 15, Kozak’s scrutineer brought word that she would serve the next four years as mayor, having defeated both incumbent John Dooley and challenger Pat Severyn. Kozak’s margin of victory was less than 300 votes.

SensibleBC, a marijuana reform group that wanted Dooley ousted, took some credit for helping her win. However, while she was happy to have their support, she said she has little relationship with the initiative. Kozak, who now chairs the police board, does support moving towards legalization of pot and encouraging police to make possession of the drug a low priority.

“When I think about our emergency personnel and our police, and how we want their valuable services used, that’s not how I want them used,” she said. “We want to fund the investigation of real crime.”

Expect the new city council to lift the Baker Street dog ban, at least on a trial basis. Kozak was the only member of the previous council open to the idea, but at the all-candidates forum in November, nearly every candidate expressed some degree of support for revisiting the issue.

Kozak pledged to strengthen relationships locally, regionally, provincially, nationally, and internationally by building on her work as chair of the local governments committee for the Columbia River Treaty review. She is also the new president of the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments.

“I bring to the table experience, passion, heart and mind,” she said. “What I have to offer is almost fearless exploration of who we can be.”

— With files from Will Johnson

Previous Nelson Star top newsmakers

2013: Nelson Civic Theatre Society

2012: Mother Nature

2011: Nelson Search and Rescue

2010: Pastor Jim Reimer

Just Posted

Nelson childcare centre part of provincial affordable care pilot

The School House Early Care and Learning Centre is one of 53 sites chosen for $200 per month childcare

Nelson faces possible fines for recycling contamination

5.9% of blue bag contents are not recyclable

LETTER: Bear more responsibility

From reader Chris Dawson

Nelson’s Matti Erickson wins provincial gold in photo finish

The L.V. Rogers runner tied with another athlete

Castlegar’s Waterline property purchased; owners to protect it for rock climbers

New owners plan to subdivide, sell bluffs to recreational climbing group

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

One month after legalization, illicit cannabis shops doing brisk business

When asked what has changed since Canada legalized on Oct. 17, one staffer said: “We’re just busier.”

Hunter who saved B.C. man pinned inside smashed truck says ‘God was sending me to him’

Sayward man describes chance discovery of Duncan Moffat, 23, in northern Vancouver Island woods

Road-weary Canucks thumped 6-2 by Wild

Vancouver hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday

Toronto private school didn’t report alleged sexual assault to police

Police say a sexual assault at an all-boys Catholic institution was not reported to them

China says butt out; Canada calls for release of “arbitrarily” detained Muslims

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Canada’s envoy of going beyond their diplomatic roles

Harsh storms have nearly tripled power outages in last five years, BC Hydro says

More frequent and severe storms have damaged Hydro’s electrical systems since 2013

Dead Saskatoon tattoo artist’s skin removed and preserved

The skin was removed in honour of the well known artist’s work

B.C. Realtor suspended after helping intern forge note about sick grandma

Vancouver real estate agent Jaideep Singh Puri has to pay fine, take ethics course

Most Read