When faced with a decision on its future, Nelson voters looked to the past in this year’s municipal election.
John Dooley returned to city hall after defeating incumbent Deb Kozak in the mayoral race. Dooley previously served three three-year terms as mayor and two as councillor, but was upset by Kozak in 2014.
His return to the position signalled voters’ discontent with Kozak’s tenure, which became contentious with complaints about city council’s handling of the Hall Street project, the pay raise it approved for the next council that ran counter to an independent committee’s recommendation, and its field-use policy for Nelson Baseball at Lion’s Park.
Dooley, who won by 386 votes, said he thought he had voter support throughout the campaign.
“People weren’t second guessing if they were behind me. They were saying, ‘We’re behind you.’ That kept me motivated and I didn’t leave any stone unturned to get the votes out and I knew that was going to be the difference at the end of the day,” he told the Nelson Star.
“I worked harder probably than I’ve ever done in the past to win this election.”
Voters didn’t just opt for change in the mayor’s seat.
Janice Morrison was the only councillor to reclaim her position at city hall. Bob Adams and Robin Cherbo were both defeated, while Michael Dailly, Anna Purcell and Valerie Warmington declined to run again.
That opened the door to newcomers Rik Logtenberg, Brittny Anderson, Cal Renwick, Keith Page and Jesse Woodward, who beat out 13 other challengers for council positions.
Results weren’t the only unpredictable part of the election.
In July, a political group called the Coalition of Responsible Electors (CORE) took shape with no specific platform other than a desire for change.
“We can’t just sit back and complain,” said CORE organizer Stephen Harris. “We’re either going to do something or be quiet and just accept the status quo. We can’t just accept the status quo, so we’re going to do something.”
CORE put forward five candidates for council and none of mayor, but its message went largely unheard at the polls with only Renwick being elected.
The mayoral race included the surprise candidacy of Bernie Brown, known locally as Bubbles the Clown. Brown said she was compelled to run after a letter she wrote to the Star in September about mental health went viral.