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Op/Ed: A Tribute to Mayors John Dooley and Ron Toyota

Nelson Mayor John Dooley, speaking from the heart during a recent Remembrance Day Ceremony in the Heritage City. — The Nelson Daily file photo

Politics is a rough and tumble profession.

The hours are long, your decisions are often second guessed, and you have to reapply for the job every four years or so.

Being a politician is not for the faint of heart. 

There was clear evidence of that during the civic elections in BC a month ago. 

In four of the biggest cities in the Kootenays, the incumbent mayor was swept out of office by newcomers. 

Fernie, Cranbrook, Trail and of course Nelson all opted for a new person in the mayor’s job (strangely voters went much easier on incumbent councillors).

I got my start in municipal politics and have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who run for civic office, even if my views and priorities are the polar opposite to theirs.

Take my years on Nelson City Council as an example.

Have you ever seen two bighorn sheep gallop directly at one another and smash heads, then locking horns?

That was Mayor John Dooley and I on many occasions.

I was a councillor for most of a term while John was mayor, we often viewed things through a different political lens and that led to clashes.

Yet, I have nothing but admiration for John’s accomplishments on behalf of his city.

John treasures his family and loves Nelson more than almost anyone I know, and it showed in the incredible work he did.

He’s a skilled politician, master at working a room (or hockey rink) and tireless supporter of Nelson.

Not to mention his yearly singing of O’ Canada during July 1st celebrations would bring a tear to your eye.

One of my favorite memories of John will always be when I announced I was potentially leaving council to seek the nomination and run as MLA.  

John jumped up and offered to sign my nomination papers so fast it startled me.

Was it because he wanted to get rid of his adversary on city council or truly believed I would be a strong representative in Victoria?

I like to think it was a bit of both.

And I must say the moment I was elected MLA; John was the first to congratulate me and immediately put any perceived differences aside as we worked together on local issues.

We met regularly to discuss how we could help make Nelson and the riding a better place.

Because John Dooley truly cares.

I also want to say thank you and wish a happy retirement to a long-time Kootenay politician who chose not to run. Ron Toyota was Mayor of Creston for a remarkable four terms, as well as being president of the Rotary Club, Director at the Regional District, Chair at the College of the Rockies and the United Way.

Mayor Toyota has given so selflessly to his community (and others) for so long it is hard to list all his accomplishments in one column. 

One of the last big projects Ron saw through was the display of a CT-114 Tutor, painted in the colours of the 1967 Golden Centennaries, a squadron led by local C.B. (Clarence) Lang in dedication of Johnny Huscroft.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds flew over the skies of Creston to honour the legacy of the two local aviation buffs who are tremendously missed by their families and community.

It takes a significant amount of dedication and effort to pull together such a monumental task, but that is just who Ron Toyota is.

He will do whatever it takes to deliver for his community. 

Ron and I also had different political views and he even ran my opponent’s campaign in the provincial election.

But after that election was over, he wouldn’t hesitate to call or write when there was an issue concerning Creston and area.

He was a champion for his community just like John Dooley in Nelson.

I wish all the new councils in the Kootenays great success, my door is always open to you.

And to the two former mayors of Nelson and Creston I want to sincerely say, thank you for your years of service.

Brittny Anderson represents the electoral district of Nelson-Creston as a member of the BC NDP Party.