Retiring Nelson city councillor Donna Macdonald paid tribute to her colleagues, city staff, and even the media Monday as she chaired her final meeting.
“It’s been an amazing experience in city politics,” she said. “It certainly hasn’t always been easy, but it’s never been boring. It’s often been really rewarding. I highly recommend it and welcome the councillors who are about to embark on this journey.”
Macdonald has served 19 years on council since 1988. It was also the final meeting for councillors Paula Kiss and Candace Batycki, who did not seek re-election either. Both were first elected in 2011.
Mayor John Dooley, who was defeated in Saturday’s election, was absent for personal reasons. However, Macdonald would have chaired the committee of the whole meeting anyway.
Macdonald thanked voters, her supporters, friends, and the media, “which we don’t often do. We appreciate them coming to our meetings and letting our community know what we’re up to. I’ve always felt treated very fairly by our media.”
She also praised city staff as “wonderful to work with” and expressed gratitude to her council colleagues, who she said have generally co-operated, despite “a few bumps,” and accomplished much over the last three years. “I won’t miss the meetings, but I’ll miss getting to hang out with all of you,” she said. Council responded with a standing ovation.
Kiss acknowledged the unusually large crowd in the gallery, which frequently applauded. “I have learned a tremendous amount, and grown to appreciate staff and all they do,” she said. “A lot of times we get credit for things that are directly because of staff’s skill, diplomacy, and ability to put intelligent things in front of us.”
Kiss also said she had a “nervous relationship” with media before moving to Nelson, but is now much more comfortable. She is returning to school to study project management, but intends to come back.
Batycki said after hearing a series of delegations Monday, she was impressed again by the level of volunteerism in Nelson. “A whole cadre of volunteers stands behind everything we heard tonight,” she said. “It’s such an engaged and caring community. People care about their fellow citizens and are generous with their time.”
City manager Kevin Cormack said staff’s job depended on council’s leadership. “We do our best to provide the best professional advice, but the community lens you bring to each decision is what is important,” he said. “It’s certainly been a pleasure to work with this council and I would hold up what you’ve accomplished in the last three years against any community in this province or country. You should all be proud.”
Rona Park, executive director of the Nelson Community Service Centre, who was in the audience, said the current council was “one of the best I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been here. To step forward as a community member and be included, involved, listened to and respected as we assist council in making decisions, I think we should all feel very blessed.”
Her view was not shared by frequent critic and blogger Claus Schunke, who spoke to council for what he said was the 31st time this term.
He addressed mayor-elect Deb Kozak directly, saying he hoped she would honour a pledge to make council meetings more open and welcoming. Kozak walked over to him, shook his hand, and said she was “looking forward to working together. I’m hoping for cheerier-sounding reports.”
The new council will be sworn in December 8.