Richard Rowberry: Bio
I have lived in or around Nelson since 1980 and for the past 14 years have created summer youth, school, and community theatre programming through The Nelson History Theatre Society while providing employment and training opportunities for local artists and young people seeking a career in the arts.
I wanted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of John Houston’s death with a theatre project and wondered how his vision and leadership qualities would relate to Nelson today. It soon became apparent that Houston’s drive to make Nelson a prosperous and growing community through developing our local resources was as much needed today as during his years as our first mayor.
I decided to actually run for office to experience the process and apply Houston’s principles to our community’s current issues — a stagnating local economy, the need for an expanding tax base, housing and employment for young families, services for seniors, and adequate health care.
Since announcing my candidacy, I have received many expressions of support from voters who have become dissatisfied with what they consider a lack of leadership and vision during John Dooley’s tenure in office. They feel that a change is warranted and that city council as a whole would benefit from someone willing to provide energy and leadership to their initiatives rather than to follow reluctantly behind.
As a theatre entrepreneur, I am frugal beyond belief and very good at asking other people to get involved — for the good of the community and just for the fun of it.
Top 3 issues
1. Community sustainability. John Houston dedicated his career to making Nelson a growing and prosperous community based on development of our resources. We no longer look to mining and lumber, but now have the potential to become a significant cultural and wilderness recreation tourism destination through our arts and heritage community and stunning all-seasons environment. There are many local businesses dependent on a steady flow of visitors.
We also have many entrepreneurs who came for the lifestyle but work in the wider world via the Internet. We need to make Nelson even more attractive to them through the support of youth and cultural services.
Also, seniors living here or retiring here need assurance of good health services, transit, and reasonable property taxes.
Community sustainability means housing for young families, care for seniors, employment opportunities, restrained spending, as well as environmental practices which will make Nelson a model for small communities across the province.
2. A Citizens’ Forum. Nelson enjoys a wide variety of opinions about how “they” should do things. A vocal few have the mobility, the time and willingness to express those opinions; many rarely get engaged — either through apathy or a sense that it won’t do any good; and others like things as they are, vote every three years and let it go at that. They all have valid points of view — all need a forum in which to express them. I would like to get together with wiser heads than mine to develop a series of mechanisms to facilitate communication and consultation among council, city administration, issue stakeholders, community experts, and those who would appreciate the perspectives of others. I envision a combination of public meetings, on-line discussion groups, social media sites, all co-ordinated through the city’s website.
Important issues for discussion: housing, health care, spending priorities, greening our city, and…
3. Earning a Living. We have no big industrial tax base. Nelson Hydro is its biggest money maker (started by John Houston, by the way!) and the White Building brings in a tidy sum too — an accomplishment of the Elliott administration and opposed by then-councillor Dooley. Our local resources are arts, culture, heritage, and wilderness recreation. The city needs to take an entrepreneurial approach to developing them in consultation with stakeholders. We need sustained promotion and the co-ordination of activities through the highly under-used and grossly underfunded Cultural Development Commission eventually leading to a series of festivals featuring artisans, performing and fine artists and wilderness experiences. If developed by the city it would lead to direct revenue on top of income for our businesses. This will generate tax revenue which will in turn take the burden off property owners.