Darlene and Neil Kalawsky won a lifetime achievement award at the Castlegar Chamber's business awards.

Active community member Darlene Kalawsky shares view of Castlegar progress

A Q&A with Communities in Bloom president Darlene Kalawsky.

Darlene Kalawsky is a well known Castlegar business woman and avid volunteer who works tirelessly at promoting and beautifying the city she calls home. The Castlegar News asked her some questions about business in a small town and what motivates her volunteer spirit.

You are well known around town for your involvement with Castlegar Communities in Bloom. Why are you so passionate about this cause?

DK: I am very proud of our city’s association with this outstanding organization. In the past 11 years Castlegar has transformed itself with citizen power, encouraging pride in one’s hometown, maximizing its assets and galvanizing its citizens to be a part of the solution. Yes, floral displays are part of the evaluation criteria for the Communities in Bloom competition along with tidiness efforts, environmental action, heritage conservation, urban forestry, and landscaped areas. But community involvement is the thread that runs through each and every criteria, and is the heart of what makes Castlegar so special.

Every single citizen in our community is an ambassador for our city, through education, work or play. I encourage everyone to be prideful of your community. Look around you — is it attractive to folks who are looking to establish a business, bring their family here, or retire here?

What other causes are you passionate about?

DK: My family — I have had the privilege of being surrounded by some amazing individuals. I am blessed! Animal welfare — our family has fostered and adopted many cats and dogs in our lifetime. For us it is just something we do. Other passions include business development, Selkirk College student outreach, organizing summer concerts, Rotary and travelling.

Is there an area that you would like to see Castlegar improve in?

DK: Our airport needs to improve its landing percentages. Having an unreliable airport affects many areas of economic development. We need a solution. How is this going to be overcome? Now is the time to work this completely through. Also civic planning — are we reaching out to investors? Are we planning for growth?

Last year you and your husband Neil were awarded with a lifetime achievement award at the Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards Gala honouring your more than 25 years of being business owners in Castlegar. Are there a few high points during those years that stand out in your mind?

DK: Winning the Triple Crown Award — recognition as one of the top 100 dealers in Canada, Neil’s role as National Board Chair of the Canadian Auto Dealers Association, our recent Community Driver Award from BC New Car Dealers, the addition of Castlegar Toyota, Castlegar Hyundai and Castlegar KIA & Kalawsky Collision to the Kalawsky Auto Group. The most significant change has been technology in vehicle design. From our first dealership in 1978 until now, it is still exciting to view new introductions and to witness the direction of futuristic engineering in the auto industry.

Where do you see Castlegar heading in the future?

DK: If marketed well in the next five years, Castlegar will become a destination. Business development sets the tone for a sustainable future. Privatization of some essential services may occur. Tourism will be on the rise. Support businesses for recreation and cultural activities will begin to appear. Lifestyle and income earning will be more equal, therefore making Castlegar of interest to young professionals. Affordable energy efficient housing models will be common in Castlegar.