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‘A great year to be mayor’

A baseball player, newspaperman and longtime local politician, Nevada City Mayor Steve Cottrell recently discussed the different hats he’s worn and places he’s been with a can of Budweiser in hand at the Mineshaft, one of his usual haunts.

He grew up in Arcata, the son of a Republican, community-oriented T-ball mom and a Democrat dad, a one-legged truck driver in the Teamster’s Union.

“My parents taught me about being a community volunteer,” Cottrell said.



Cottrell, 64, now works as an editor for the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce newsletter. A history buff, he also gives lectures and walking tours of the city.

At age 17, Cottrell was drafted by the Boston Red Sox. He’s quick to emphasize the baseball “career” was a “footnote” in his life and largely unsuccessful.




However, he did meet many of his childhood heroes, throwing batting practice pitches to Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Willie McCovey. “I had an experience,” Cottrell said. He toured Canada, the Southwest and an Indian reservation playing in the bush leagues, also working odd jobs at saw mills and ranches.

In 1965, Cottrell was drafted into the Army and spent 18 months of the next two years in Germany.

When he returned, he hitchhiked with his girlfriend to the East Coast and spent the next six years in west Philadelphia, also spending time with a childhood friend who lives in Washington, D.C., who would later join Cottrell here to start a weekly newspaper, the Nevada City News.

When Cottrell came back to California, he tended bars in San Francisco, such as the M&M Tavern. He moved to Nevada City in 1977 with his then-wife and stepson.

As a high school student in Arcata, Cottrell covered high school sports for the Eureka Times-Standard. He started writing again when the Mountain Messenger launched a Nevada County edition in 1981 but eventually “went to go make real money tending bar” at the National Hotel, where he started after moving here and where he still works as part-time night manager.

Cottrell began his career in politics here on the county school board soon after arriving. He was appointed to the Nevada City Planning Commission in 1991 and then elected to the City Council a year later, but was not chosen mayor by his peers until this year.

He describes the present council as the “most diverse” in his tenure, lacking any of the three-member cliques he thinks previously characterized the governing body. Cottrell looks forward to correcting “very serious” problems, such as financial mismanagement that has lately plagued the city. “It’s a great year to be mayor,” he said.

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To reach Staff Writer Josh Singer, e-mail joshs@theunion.com or call 477-4234.


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