February 11th, 2016
Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1949, Donna Macdonald grew up in a Father Knows Best family. Her mother was a homemaker; her father worked as an executive for Eaton’s. Like true prairie folks, the family moved to the Okanagan Valley, where she completed high school in Kelowna and soon headed for university in Vancouver.
She hung out on 4th Avenue as a self-described ‘fringe hippie,’ volunteering with troubled kids and working as a secretary for a big law firm, eventually gravitating to a remote island off the coast.
Visiting Nelson in 1972, She fell in love — with the town — and worked there in OFY community development projects until she became a forest technician for the Forest Service. That led to forestry work in Mozambique with her partner and daughter, as well being a founding mother of the Nelson & District Women’s Centre, working for an MP and an MLA, editing a weekly newspaper and freelancing.
In 1988 she ran for Nelson City Council and began her longest job ever — 19 years as a Nelson City Councillor — until December of 2014. “Being a city councillor is like doing a dozen different jobs,” she says. Her portfolios included Nelson’s Hydro Utility, the waterfront pathway, cultural development, affordable housing, the library and the new recreation complex.
During breaks from Council, she was a columnist for the local daily paper, observing the goings-on at City Hall. In about 2007 she started to think about writing a book about local government. By the time she retired in 2014, there was a sort-of book done.
Forthcoming in May, Donna Macdonald’s Surviving City Hall (Nightood $22.95) is a memoir with stories and reflections that explore both the mechanics of local government and the humanity of that work.