Rosemarie Johnson, Nakusp’s first female mayor, and longest serving one to date, has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Revelstoke, Johnson moved to Nakusp at the age of ten with her father and stepmother.
After going away to Victoria for university, she came back and married a local man, Fred Johnson.
She served as a teacher in the education system for 28 years.
“She was very committed to Nakusp,” said her sister, Emily Rollins.
“She complained bitterly about the state of the grounds, and the people not really looking after their gardens, and that sort of thing. She always felt that there was something that they could do.”
Fred convinced her to run for the village council.
“Her husband told her ‘If you’re going to complain about it, carry on, but do something about it. Put your hat in the ring and see if you can make a difference.’ And so she did.”
From 1985-1987, she was a village Alderman,
In 1987, while still a teacher, she ran for, and won, the position of mayor.
“I think maybe she felt that it was just going to be part of her,” said Rollins.
“She was always involved with the Kinnettes and the Kinsman. By this time, her husband had passed away, so she had the time, and it just seemed to grow, as an Alderman, as a representative for the Kootenays, she got a lot of people together to make changes.”
Not everyone was happy with her as mayor. She was criticized for just making everything look pretty. She’d had garbage and debris thrown at her house on several occasions.
“She rattled a lot of people’s chains.”
During an interview shortly after her retirement, she was quoted as saying “There’s a lot of good people in Nakusp, and [I had to remember] they’re not really mad at me personally. I just tried to remain calm.'”
She may have rattled chains, but she got a lot done. From paving roads, to curbing sidewalks, even getting the village to take over the water system from the RDCK.
In 1989, she and her council created a committee that would become the Nakusp and Area Development Board. The Board formed a forestry branch, and a tourism branch, and was involved with issues like timber licensing, the ferry fight, and trying to obtain a community forest and a training centre for forestry. Other endeavours of the board included promoting the area as a tourist destination, and a Burton trail project.
her biggest achievement during her time as mayor would probably be the improvements made to the waterfront and park, which included the waterfront walk, Japanese gardens, a gazebo, as well as grassed area around the gazebo, and concessions.
In 2003, she moved to Kelowna in order to be close to family.
In 2008, she was awarded the Freedom of the City. It’s an honour bestowed by unanimous vote from a town council. It gives the recipient the right to vote in the municipality’s elections and to gold office on the council. It had only been given out once before, to the 408 Helicopter Squadron in the early 1990’s.
“Nakusp is always in my heart,” she once said.
“And it will always be home.”