For fun, I made a list of the places of birth and death of Nelson’s mayors.
Since the city’s incorporation in 1897, there have been 33 of them and 42 changes of mayor. Seven mayors served non-consecutive terms.
In some ways they are a pretty homogenous bunch, which is immediately apparent by glancing at the portraits of past councils lining a corridor at city hall.
When first elected, all but four mayors were white, middle-aged men. Their average age at taking office was 48. The oldest was John Bell, 64 in 1925. I always thought Gerald Rotering was the youngest at 33 when elected in 1985, but was surprised to discover the title actually belongs to Dr. William O. Rose, 31 when he became mayor in 1903.
The shortest serving mayor was Mungo McQuarrie, elected in 1918. Ten months after being sworn in, he became the first and only Nelson mayor to die in office. He passed away days after Nelson celebrated the armistice of the First World War — and soon after learning his son was killed in that war.
The longest serving was Louis Maglio — 14 years over three separate stints between 1966 and 1985. Maglio also had the distinction of being the first mayor born in Nelson. The second was Bill Ramsden, elected in 1990.
Ramsden and Maglio are actually the only two mayors born in BC. The remaining birthplaces break down as follows: Ontario (10), England (5), Saskatchewan (4), New Brunswick (2), Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, North Dakota, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the Netherlands (1). Manitoba is the only province that has not produced a Nelson mayor.
Rotering was born in Amsterdam. Joe Kary, who served 1952-57, was the first and only American-born mayor; he was also the first mayor born in the 20th century. Norman Stibbs, who served 1938-46, was the last mayor born in the 19th century. Stibbs held the record for most consecutive years as mayor, a mark tied last fall by John Dooley.
Twenty-seven mayors are deceased; six are alive (Rotering, Ramsden, Dooley, Gary Exner, Dave Elliott, and Deb Kozak).
Kary had by far the longest life; he died in 2008 age 97. William Gillett, elected mayor in 1906 at age 35, had the shortest life; he died in 1917, age 46, of a pulmonary hemorrhage following a bout with tuberculosis. (Gillett is also noteworthy as founding mayor of Prince George.) The average lifespan among the deceased mayors was 73.
Eighteen mayors died in Nelson and 18 are buried here, although those two lists are not quite identical. Seven mayors died elsewhere in BC and two in the United States.
Founding mayor John Houston holds multiple distinctions: the first to be born (1850), the first to die (1910), and the first to resign from office. (Ramsden is the only other mayor to resign mid-term.)
Frank Fletcher, Nelson’s much-maligned fourth mayor, who served in 1901-02, was the first European-born mayor. He hailed from Kent, England, although the year of his birth is given variously as 1855, 1858, and 1861.
In some ways, Fletcher is the most enigmatic mayor. His obituary in the Nelson Daily News was brief and his grave remained unmarked until 2011, when Don Tonsaker, who owns the magnificent home at 306 Silica St. that Fletcher built, rectified the situation.
“When he died in 1913 he was broken and alone,” Tonsaker said. “We just figured he needed some recognition.”
Present mayor Deb Kozak, of course, stands out as the first and only woman to hold the job.
NAME GAME: Great idea to rename a Kaslo street after the late Aya and Buck Higashi. Village council has endorsed the suggestion from former residents Glen and Jeannette Leyden.
They suggested the street in front of the Higashis’ house be named Higashi Way; council’s resolution last month indicated Railroad Ave. will be so renamed.
The Higashis technically lived on 5th St., but 5th becomes Railroad, a nod to the route of the Kaslo and Slocan Railway, whose tracks were torn up 60 years ago.
However, village administrator Neil Smith said despite the motion, it’s not certain which street will be rechristened Higashi Way, except that it will be in lower Kaslo.
Here’s an idea: how about naming H Ave. after them?
Most of lower Kaslo’s street names are dreadfully boring — A through L avenues, plus 1st through 8th streets. When the townsite was laid out in 1891, surveyor Samuel P. Tuck doesn’t seem to have given much thought to street names.
Ironically, Tuck — who went on to become Kaslo’s city clerk, a newspaper editor, and sheriff of South Kootenay — has a street named after him in upper Kaslo, which also has several other streets that honour mining-era pioneers, such as Brennand, Wardner, Jardine, and Zwicky.
Why not rebrand lower Kaslo’s streets after pioneer or longtime families whose names start with the same letters as the existing streets?
How about Allesbrook or Archer for A? (Or Abey — Kaslo could have an Abey Road in addition to its Penny Lane.) Bowker or Bjerkness or Butler for B? Carney or Cockle or Cody for C? Erickson for E and Fleener for F? Garland or Giegerich or Green for G? Irwin or Isaacson for I? Johnson or Johanson for J? Keen or Kane for K? (Here I’m relying on the book Pioneer Families of Kaslo.)
Of course homeowners are never crazy about having their addresses changed on them. But it’s a nice thought.
Nelson Star editor Greg Nesteroff writes here whenever inspiration strikes — which is about every other week.