Sam Van Schie was a reporter at the Nelson Star for three years.

COLUMN: Lots of new faces at the Nelson Star

There’s been something of a changing of the guard going on in the Nelson Star newsroom.

There’s been something of a changing of the guard going on in the Nelson Star newsroom.

Last fall our editor Bob Hall made the tough decision to trade in his journalism hat for communications work, after nearly two decades working at Nelson newspapers. He was replaced by longtime Abbotsford newsman Kevin Mills.

More recently our reporter Kirsten Hildebrand, a well-connected socialite who’s raised three kids in Nelson, packed up her desk with plans to start her own home-based writing business. She was replaced this week by an ambitious new recruit named Tamara Hynd, who’s been working at our sister newspaper in Fernie for the past year.

And now I’m on my way out also. Like Bob and Kirsten, I’m leaving the newspaper but not the community. I’ll be replaced by one of my old university classmates, Will Johnson, who is one of the finest and most prolific writers I know. He’ll be arriving next week from Victoria.

The editorial department will be in good hands with these three, plus our popular part-time history writer Greg Nesteroff, a Kootenay native who says he has no intention of going anywhere. All the newcomers are sure to bring a fresh perspective to the newspaper and I’m excited to see what they’ll do with it.

Nelson is a wonderful town with a rich history and an endless supply of interesting stories for them to discover. I’ve been a reporter here for three years (first from 2009 to 2010, then again from 2012 to present) and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here’s what I think the new crew should know about this place:

1. Many great things in Nelson exist because of the passion of a small group of people:

Whether it’s the development of the lakeside dog trails in 2001 or the long anticipated completion of a skatepark in Rosemont last summer, many of the public amenities in this city are here because citizen groups came together to advocate for them. The same is true of the growing number of successful businesses in town run by cooperatives and non-profit societies, from the Kootenay Country Store to the Nelson Civic Theatre and Savoy Lanes. Nelson is a place where you can have a big idea and find the people who will join you in making it happen.

2. Nelsonites take care of their own:

When a Nelson resident is struck by personal tragedy the whole community comes together to help. This paper has printed countless stories about fundraising events to support individuals who have been in an accident or lost their house in a fire, or are facing massive medical bills because of a disability or illness. I’ve personally attended many of these events and seen the silent auction tables packed with items donated by local businesses and the huge number of people who turn out, including many who have never met the person the money will go to. This is such a caring community and I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a place where people take care of each other.

3. There’s no amount too big to fundraise:

I first moved to Nelson the same week the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation kicked off its campaign to raise $1.5 million to buy a CT scanner — which lead to me taking a whole lot of cheque presentation photos that year! I was amazed when that fundraising thermometer finally reached the top. It’s not as though Nelson is a hub of for wealthy people with a lot of money to give away, but it’s a place where people are willing to share what they have. For all the groups trying to raise tens of thousands for various projects, there always seem to be donors willing to chip in. Nelson is full of incredibly generous people.

Some other things to know: Nobody’s going to look at you funny if you walk around town in your ski pants or mountain bike armour, so go ahead and hit the grocery store or grab a drink on your way home from your outdoor adventures. Try to spend your money in town rather than outside the community, because local businesses will use your money to support other Nelson groups and initiatives. Get used to Kootenay Time; everyone is perpetually late. Don’t call yourself a Nelsonite unless you’ve lived here 20 years.

That’s all I have for advice, but before I wrap up this column I just want to thank everyone who’s appeared in one of the stories I’ve written or a photograph I’ve taken. I’ve really enjoyed documenting the goings on in this town, and it’s a happy side effect that I’ve had the chance to meet so many wonderful people in the process. Thank you, Nelson. I’ll see you around.

— Sam Van Schie was a reporter at the Nelson Star. You can reach her by email at

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