A retired teachers union president will run this November for director of Area F (rural Nelson) in the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
Tom Newell, the former head of the Nelson District Teachers’ Association, will seek the job currently held by Ron Mickel, who is retiring after two terms.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about the last couple of years as I neared retirement,” Newell told the Star. “It’s a perfect fit for me.”
Newell’s elected experience is limited to his union position, but he says he has spent his entire career working with boards, giving him an understanding of contracts, budgets and taxation. He is also used to advocacy work.
“I looked at my skill set and my passion for the area and knowing rural life on the North Shore, I said I’m going to run for Area F director,” he said.
Newell obtained his teaching certificate in 1980, but before he put his training to use, he spent a decade managing social housing in the Lower Mainland. He and wife Marg discovered Nelson because her cousin lived in the area. They decided to move and “see if we could build lives here.”
Newell has lived on Heddle Road for 25 years. He spent a dozen years as a teacher and counsellor at Salmo Secondary and then served as president of his union from 2003-13. Although retired from that position, he remains involved with the organization as treasurer.
He also chairs the BC Teachers Federation’s internal mediation service, which sees him travel the province, supporting members in work-related conflicts.
Closer to home, he has been involved with the Six Mile water users group since he moved to the area, and served as its secretary for the last decade.
He put his name forward for the regional district when he heard Mickel wasn’t seeking re-election.
“I wouldn’t have run against Ron, but when he said he wasn’t running, I made my decision. I thought Ron did a good job supporting us and local groups. He managed the grant process in an effective, fair, and democratic way and was always willing to go to bat for people and see how local government could support them.”
Newell said he wants to continue to support the Beasley and North Shore fire halls and search and rescue volunteers, and to preserve and improve special places like Pulpit Rock and local beaches.
He also said he believes the board must pay “careful attention to fiscal management and manage the growth of the area appropriately.”
“There’s always pressures on development and for me, the big issue will be constantly balancing services to citizens while making sure taxation doesn’t increase.”
Newell said he feels strongly that the regional district’s buying power should support local businesses, although he stressed he wasn’t criticizing the regional district’s decision to choose an out-of-town supplier over a local one for office furniture.
“I don’t have enough knowledge to condemn that decision in any way. It’s not about that. The RDCK is a powerful economic force in Nelson and throughout the region in distributing taxpayer money. I just want to make sure it’s to the benefit of our full region as much as possible.”
Area F includes Beasley, Bonnington, Taghum, Six Mile, and Willow Point, among other communities. Geographically, it is the second smallest of the RDCK’s 11 rural electoral areas, but on the last census it had the third-highest population, at just under 4,000 residents.