ABOVE: Deb Kozak hugs a supporter after learning she has become the first ever female mayor of Nelson. BELOW: John Dooley congratulates Kozak on her win as Pat Dooley looks on.

UPDATED: Deb Kozak voted Nelson’s first female mayor

City of Nelson: Longtime city councillor Deb Kozak will be the next mayor of Nelson — and the first woman to fill the role.

Deb Kozak has been voted Nelson’s first female mayor, defeating incumbent John Dooley by a little under 300 votes.

Kozak had 1,756 votes to Dooley’s 1,475, while retired police officer Pat Severyn came third with 780.

“I’m so looking forward to the next four years working with this council. It’s going to be great,” said Kozak, to thunderous cheers from her supporters at the Legion. Her husband Pete and her son Terry stood clapping nearby, and embraced her.

Kozak told the Star the first point of business is to speak with the new council to see what they heard from constituents while campaigning.

“I think the first step that I’m going to take is to sit down with the councillors and my team, because elections are a great time of opening in the community, where we’re really engaged in the community and all of these people have been engaging with different people. I want to know what they heard with this election.”

She said Dooley chaired council for nine years and put in a “tremendous amount of work and effort”.

“He loves the community dearly. I respect the work that he did…I’m looking forward to his support for the initiatives that this new council will be taking forward.”

As for Severyn, she said he ran a great campaign, especially considering it was his first time in politics.

“I have great respect for the solid campaign that Pat ran. He worked hard every day and I was proud to get to know him a bit better.”

Kozak addressed the crowd. “I’ve had the privilege of working with so many good, good people who stand up in the community and do good. I’m looking forward to the next four years with this new council. I’ve had the best team and campaign team.”

She said she has big plans for the community.

“I’m looking forward to the next evolution of who we can be. I don’t mean that in an airy-fairy way. I think that we’ve been resting on our laurels since the ’90s.”

“I’ve talked to everyone in this room about their ideas and where we need to go as a community.  Yes, there are challenges, like climate change, but we have so many things to be grateful for.”

She thanked all the “wonderful people who have stepped up and done community work. This town is so amazing for that.”

Mayor John Dooley congratulated Kozak, and said he was relieved at her win.

“I wouldn’t call it a defeat,” he told 103.5 The Juice. “I’d call it a success because Councillor Kozak is going to be mayor, and we’ve worked very closely together over the years. We’ve got a lot of planning in place. Pat Severyn had no experience and no knowledge of how the community works, so he probably would have set us back.”

An emotional Dooley said he’s looking forward to seeing the work Kozak will do, and can now focus on the recent death of his brother Frank. “The reality is I’ve had an absolutely devastating week with the loss of my brother. Right now I just want to sit and reflect on the loss,” he said.

Severyn said he’s fine with the election results, even though he had the fewest votes in the race for mayor. In the immediate future he plans to catch up on some sleep and visit some of his grandchildren in Whiterock.

After that, “I’m not going to say I don’t have any plans. I’ve been contacted by some people who suggested things to me from a riding that is interesting, I’ll see how it goes.”

“I didn’t realize I was capable of being a politician. I’m not a politician. I give answers to people, I look people in the eye, I tell the truth. It’s the way I work.”

Severyn said he doesn’t regret running for council rather than mayor.

“Not for a second,” he said. “I don’t know if I could be that guy who could be on council the way operations are going. Now there’s a fresh mayor, she’s been on council, she has something to say and we have a whole bunch of new councillors. This city is going to be invigorated.

“It’s a tough time for coming ahead. This won’t be an easy slug for the next four or five years. And we have to be patient with these people because they’ve got to learn, and they are good people from top to bottom and they are going to do a heck of a job.”

Kozak was first elected in 2005 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2011. She will become the first woman to serve as mayor since the city incorporated in 1897.

The council will be Anna Purcell, who topped the polls with 2,424 votes, followed by Michael Dailly with 2,167, incumbent Robin Cherbo with 2,015, incumbent Bob Adams with 1,973, newcomer Valerie Warmington with 1,853, and former councillor Janice Morrison with 1,797.

Among the unsuccessful candidates, Justin Pelant had 1,687; John Paolozzi 1,501; Jason Peil 1,203; Brian Shields 798, Jeff Shecter 454, and Charles Jeanes 421.

Turnout was 50.7 per cent; 4,011 people cast ballots for mayor this year compared to 2,376 in 2011.

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