Sparwood: hard working and family focused
Mayor Lois Halko of Sparwood comes from a long line of coal-mining ancestors
Lois Halko, mayor of Sparwood, B.C., is proud that her grandchildren are the sixth generation of her family to live in southeastern B.C.’s Elk Valley. Kootenay Business spoke with Halko about her history, her job and her priorities for 2014.
Where were you born?
I was born in Natal, which is now a coal-mining ghost town that was relocated to Sparwood in the late 1960s.
Where did you go for post-secondary education?
After high school my brother helped me make the decision to be a nurse—he talked me through my choices. I obtained my RN diploma from St. Joseph's School of Nursing in Victoria and then studied and worked in psychiatric nursing in Eastern Canada. Subsequently, I obtained a diploma in public health nursing from UBC. That led to a 32-year career in community nursing. Because of my commitment to lifelong learning, when I turned 50 I enrolled at the University of Lethbridge and completed a baccalaureate degree in nursing.
What’s a common challenge in your job?
Prioritizing multiple requests is certainly one of them. The learning curve in local government is huge and as this is my first term, I attend as many events and meetings as possible.
If your city were a person, what would you say is its dominant personality characteristic?
A strong work ethic. People here have a commitment to work, focused on supporting family life. People here want their children to pursue post-secondary education in order to increase their career options.
What do you especially love about the community of Sparwood?
I really love and appreciate the family focus of this community.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I attend a lot of my grandchildren’s sports events. I also love to travel and have had three extended trips. This travel experience influences various aspects of life, including my work.
How has your social life changed since you became mayor?
It’s certainly more active now. We’re often guests at community events, but when there’s official entertaining to be done, we host that. We entertained the lieutenant governor in September and the Japanese consul last summer.
What would you like your legacy to be in Sparwood?
Economic development and diversification. We’re becoming a service centre to the mining industry, on which we’re heavily reliant. There’s lots of development along our industrial strip and we need to diversify, making more services and amenities available. We have plans for a new hotel and commercial services, and we welcomed East Kootenay Credit Union to our family last year.