Eliza Olson, pictured here speaking at the 2017 Earth Day pilgrimage in the Delta Nature Reserve, was voted out as president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society during the non-profit’s AGM on Saturday, April 3, 2021, ending her 32 years in the role dating back to the society’s inception. (Grace Kennedy photo)

UPDATE: Olson out as Burns Bog Conservation Society president

New board aims to renew, strengthen relationships with staff, volunteers, members and stakeholders

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Olson had been voted out as president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society. Olson, in fact, did stand for re-election but withdrew her candidacy before the vote could take place. The story has been corrected.)

Eliza Olson is out as president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society (BBCS), after more than three decades in the role.

On Saturday (April 3), over 100 members took part in the society’s first-ever virtual AGM, selecting a new, larger board of directors. Olson was up for re-election but, after making a short speech to the members, withdrew her candidacy before voting could take place, ending her 32-year run as president — from the society’s creation until Saturday’s AGM.

In her resignation speech, Olson said she made the decision not to stand for re-election following a tumultuous last few years in the role , a time that included accusations of bullying and harassment, the board removing Olson as executive director of the society and stripping her of her duties as president, the subsequent attempted removal of five directors by Olson and the three remaining board members, and a successful lawsuit by the expelled directors that saw them reinstated and all actions made by the board after their removal reversed.

“During the last two years I have been threatened verbally and physically. I was barred from the office. Board meetings became a zoo. I have been lied to and about. I was stripped of my duties as the volunteer executive director as well president. I am not the only board member barred from the office or verbally threatened, belittled or attacked,” Olson said.

“These actions led to the June 25 motion [to remove members from the board]. It was a desperate attempt to get the society back to what it is supposed to do — saving Burns Bog and other peatlands. I brought the society back from disaster twice. I promised myself that I would not do it a third time. I am keeping that promise.”

Olson went on to thank all those who had supported her and helped her accomplish her goals, before wishing the incoming board good luck.

Two other incumbent directors — Porsha Von Kish and Richard Brousseau, who were part of the effort to expel the other directors — followed suit, withdrawing their candidacy after making short speeches. The withdrawals of Olson, Von Kish and Brousseau left the remaining 11 candidates running unopposed.

Acclaimed as president was incumbent director, former BBCS vice-president and founding member of the society Derek Zeisman.

“I’m honoured and thrilled to take on the role of president during this exciting new period in the society’s history,” Zeisman said in a press release issued Monday afternoon (April 4).

“I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the many members who took the time and effort to support our team at the AGM, despite being held over the Easter long weekend.”

Also acclaimed to joining Zeisman on the executive were incumbent vice-president and Surrey resident Sharon Elizabeth (Liz) Walker, incumbent treasurer and Delta resident Edward Brown, incumbent secretary and Langley resident Nancy McLeod. Olson will now sit on the executive as the society’s first-ever past-president.

“I’d like to thank Ms. Olson for her many years of service on behalf of the society,” Zeisman said in a press release. “I know the new board will work hard to build and expand upon her legacy of service.”

Also acclaimed as directors were Beverley Bly, Christopher Durrant, Laurie Haliburton, Pixie (Beverly) Hobby, Dr. Lynne Mackenzie, Angela Rebrec and incumbent Robert Saito. Biographies of all board members will be posted on the society’s website (burnsbog.org) “in the near future.”

“I believe [our new board of directors] represents the strongest, most talented group of directors we’ve ever assembled. I look forward to working closely and co-operatively with them during my time as president.”

New Burns Bog Conservation Society president Derek Zeisman. (Submitted photo)

Zeisman said the new board will take immediate steps to renew and strengthen its internal relationships with staff, volunteers and members, as well as with key external stakeholders including the City of Delta, Metro Vancouver, the B.C. and federal governments, “and many others.”

“I’ve always had such love and respect for Burns Bog and its amazingly complex and diverse ecosystem. The bog truly is ‘the lungs of the Lower Mainland.’ The new board is looking forward to working hard to better protect it. An exciting new chapter in our history lies ahead,” Zeisman said.

Zeisman said the society is now entering a new period of renewal, following a difficult period of legal and financial turmoil, caused by a divided board and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our new board is strong and united. We’re eagerly looking ahead to the future.”

More to come…

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