Nelli Richardson, who spearheaded the creation of a social development coordinator position in Revelstoke, was celebrated for her work with the social sector at a retirement party at the visual arts centre on Wednesday.
“This is to honour Nelli in a casual way,” said Jill Zacharias, the person who was hired for the role Richardson fought hard to create. “There’s a lot of people here who have been here since the beginning and worked hard and went to the meetings to make it all happen.”
Richardson is retiring as the director the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter and stepped down from her position as chair of the city’s social development committee on Wednesday. She said she plans on taking a year off from all work before deciding what to do next.
She has spent her life working in the social sector and served nine years on the school board and nine years on city council.
It was on the latter where she oversaw the social portfolio and pushed to have the coordinator position created and funded by the city.
“In my crazy wisdom, or lack of wisdom, I would go to all the social meetings and see if I could pull it all together,” she said. “It seemed that time and time again, nothing would get done on social. We all worked very hard, but it seemed like we were going nowhere.
“Social issues were high priorities with no one working on them.”
It took three years for the position to actually make it into the final budget. Zacharias was hired for the role in September 2008.
Richardson has defended the social development coordinator to council on several occasions since then, most recently ensuring full funding for the position stay in the budget for the next five years, after an initial draft proposed fazing out funding over a period of several years.
“I understood that some people didn’t understand what the social coordinator would do in the long term,” she said. “Everyone who works in the social sector knows it will never all get done. It’s an ongoing process.”
At her retirement party, a few people stood up to sing her praises.
Mayor David Raven said Revelstoke is seen as a leader and innovator on social issues, and that is thanks to Richardson. “It makes us who we are as a community and shows the caring side of what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s not all about dollars and taxes, roads and sewers. It’s who we are as people and for that we really have to thank Nelli in many ways.”
Bill Macfarlane, who served with Richardson on council for many years, said her work on council extended beyond the social sector.
“Nelli also clearly understood that was all part of making a healthy community — to make sure we had a strong economy, that we had fair taxation, that we had good recreation facilities, good safety facilities,” he said. “She was just as tenacious in those areas to make sure good decisions were made.
“She deserves to be recognized for all that she has done.”
Zacharias credited Richardson for her mentorship, leadership and advocacy for the social sector. “You have made a lasting difference,” she said.