WASECA — Judy Kozan had sweeping interests, from landscaping and carpentry to painting and music.
She immersed herself in all she did, including leading the city as an elected official.
“I can only remember good things about her,” said Waseca Mayor Roy Srp.
“She was the first and only, to this point, female mayor. She led us through some hard times and some good times.”
Kozan, 72, died Sept. 22 after a seven-year battle with cancer.
Her husband, Jim Kozan, met her when they were living in the Twin Cities in the 1970s. He was a musician and she was a booking agent for BHE, putting together bands.
“She swore she’d never date a musician and we’ve been together for 44 years,” Jim said.
The couple lived in Duluth for six months and traveled on the road for music gigs for a time before settling in Waseca, where Jim’s parents were running the Waseca Music Store.
Jim worked in the store and he and Judy bought it from his mom in 2006 and he still operates it today.
“Judy worked in the store a lot after she was done being mayor. The store’s been going for 69 years; it’s amazing. We’re selling vinyl again,” Jim said. “We sell a lot of band instruments. During COVID, we sold a lot of guitars and three accordions — people needed projects.”
He said Judy had many diverse passions in life. “She was all about animals. And landscaping — she was like ‘This is my lawn and my lawnmower.’ She was always planting trees and shrubs and plants and landscaping,” he said. “And she was a carpenter of sorts and an artist, a painter.”
She was elected to the City Council in 1983 and mayor in 1993, serving until 1995.
Srp said Kozan cared about the community and knew how to maneuver through the politics that arise.
“She had a firm hand and a strong gavel and was very adept at protocol, procedure and decorum. I learned a lot from her about how politics work and how Waseca views things. I learned a lot that helped me as a council member and now as mayor,” Srp said.
While in office, Kozan was instrumental in finding a reuse for the former University of Minnesota — Waseca campus and for attracting Itron to the city.
“UMW was leaving and the council was hoping to get some educational use there,” Jim said. That didn’t materialize but the state and federal governments were looking to expand prisons.
“The council felt the federal government was the best option. I’m glad they did. There are a lot of people with good jobs there from Waseca and 50 miles around because of it.”
The low-security federal women’s prison opened in 1992 and houses about 650 inmates.
Kozan was also involved in attracting Itron, which built a new plant in the city.
In 1992 Itron began leasing space in the EF Johnson building and two years later moved to a new facility. Itron makes electricity, gas, water and heat meters, data collection and communication systems.
Srp said that while Kozan’s accomplishments were many, he and other council members knew her family was always first.
“We knew how important family was to her. Her children would be sitting in the visitor gallery during council meetings doing their homework. That was very impressive to me.”
Kozan, born in Franklin, is survived by her husband, three children and four grandchildren. A celebration of her life is Saturday.