Judy Kolada, who died April 18 at the age of 75 after a lengthy battle with cancer, is being remembered by some of her current council colleagues as a fountain of knowledge about the city and a formidable opponent when her opinions and theirs differed.
Kolada, who would have turned 76 April 21, came to Thompson in 1963 after graduating from Bridgewater Business College in Nova Scotia and spent the last 25 years as a city councillor, working with four different mayors – Colleen Smook, Dennis Fenske, Tim Johnston and Bill Comaskey – over that quarter century.
She is only the fourth Thompson city councillor to die while in office, along with Brian Wilson, who died in 2010, Mayor Don MacLean, who died in 1991 and Dr. Blain Johnston, who died in 1974.
“She was always very passionate” about her work as a councillor, says Mayor Colleen Smook, who served on council with Kolada for one and-a-half terms, including Smook’s term as a councillor from 2014 to 2018, which was Kolada’s sixth term. “Judy was always a good sounding board.”
Smook has known Kolada for 40 years, first as a friend of her mother’s and then as a friend of her own, a friendship that was strained during the 2014-2018 term of council when the two sometimes ended up on opposite sides of municipal issues.
“We got back on terms,” Smook says.
Kolada was an advocate for everyone in the city and did what elected officials are supposed to do – listened to the public’s concerns, which made getting re-elected so many times easier.
“She never had to do a lot of advertising or campaigning to get elected,” says Smook, and was still in the loop up until the beginning of last week despite being in the hospital. “She was definitely a force to be reckoned with.”
“Over the past couple years, Coun. Kolada has provided me with an ear to vent, good advice when needed, a friendly face where it was most needed and most appreciated of all, her friendship,” said current fellow councillor Jeff Fountain in a Facebook post. “Judy was always a classy lady, dressing the part for leadership. She had a wonderful sense of optimism and great patience and was equally comfortable talking shop with the boys as she was in classier settings. Her efforts in advocacy for the Thompson Public Library, health authority, mining and lobbying efforts with the province earned her well deserved respect.”
“Judy will be remembered for her hard work and commitment to the City of Thompson,” said Thompson MLA Danielle Adams on Facebook. “She will also be remembered for the countless hours she gave to various community organizations like Relay for Life and Operation Red Nose.”
Kolada was employed by the provincial government for 30 years, in departments such as northern affairs and the Department of Labour as an employment standards officer. After retiring her government job, she served for three years as the executive director of the Thompson YWCA.
“She’ll be missed by the City of Thompson,” said Smook, characterizing Kolada as a consummate public servant when it came to her role as a councillor. “It was always for the greater good of the people around her.”
Under the terms of Manitoba’s Municipal Act, a byelection to fill the vacancy left on Thompson city council by Kolada’s death must be held as soon as reasonably possible, though the act does not spell out precisely what constitutes a reasonable timeframe.