On becoming a city councillor

I work in marketing and communication and write blogs, website content, internal and external communications, annual reports, social media posts, editorials, you name it, for work every day. When I first got elected, I had every intention of writing a blog so you could follow along on my elected journey. Well, turns out this is the hardest job I’ve ever had with a steep learning curve and so I’m finally making time to share a relatively brief overview of some learnings over my last three years on council.

The hardest job I’ve ever had

I have to say that this is the hardest job I’ve ever had. There is not really anything that can prepare you for the steep learning curve. Stepping into this role you’re immediately expected to understand policy, governance, the inner workings of a bajillion different bylaws, capital projects, municipal budgets, meeting procedures, and ultimately what it means to be accountable to taxpayers who give you hundreds of millions of dollars to run a city. You typically read anywhere from 300-1000 pages of reports per council meeting and that increases if there’s a closed meeting or if you’re on committees (I’m on Finance & Audit, Poverty Reduction, and Accessibility). I am by no means a fast reader and spend hours upon hours prepping for every meeting. The one saving grace to this steep learning curve is your colleagues, who are all going through this experience together and I am grateful for the mentorship, phone calls, meetings, and conversations that have deepened my knowledge base.

Debating publicly

Besides the learning curve, there’s also understanding how to debate publicly. I grew up in sea cadets and had to sit boards – this is where a panel of four or five high ranking officers interview you and ask you test questions and you have to give verbal answers. I think this prepared me for public speaking because it has never really been something that I had any concern over.

Being good at public speaking and forming arguments in a live debate are two completely different things. I enjoy debate but it’s not something I learned growing up and had to figure out during my time on council. Here are two important lessons I’ve learned: 1) everything you say is recorded and amplified so be sure to say what you mean and be clear, and 2) you will work with your council colleagues for four years so don’t leave the table angry. Everyone around the council table brings a unique perspective and you’re not always going to agree on every issue – but you might agree on some. When you debate issues, you have to remember that everyone is doing what they think is best for the community and at the end of the day, there’s no reason to be angry about that.

The worst days

There are days on this job where people call you names. They misjudge your character, your reasoning, they make assumptions about where you’re coming from, and they even bully you. And it hurts, a lot. You have to have thick skin, an amazing support network, and a good self-care routine in place so you don’t always focus on the negative. Even on the worst days I still love this job. I love governance and policy development; I am a complete finance nerd and enjoy learning more and more about our budget and what each line represents. I have a background in public relations and marketing / communications so I never expected to be learning about things like municipal capital projects, sewer, water, utilities, permissive tax exemptions, formal hearings, quasi judicial hearings – and most of that during a global pandemic. But being on council and continuously learning about the inner workings of our city has become a great source of joy.

Moving the mountain

Change might seem like an easy thing to accomplish on a municipal council, but getting your eight council colleagues to agree with you is not always the easiest task. The biggest change I’ve accomplished on council to date is a push for a reduction to the city managers budget amendment authority (maybe that should be it’s own blog…) and I couldn’t be happier to see those changes supported by my council colleagues. This is policy change that will impact our city for as long as it remains in effect.

My Why

Years ago my work showed this Simon Sinek video on How Great Leaders Inspire Action and ever since then, talking about our ‘Why’ has become common practice. My ‘Why’ for running for council is simple: I love this community and I want to help make a difference.

Onwards and Upwards

Up next for me: I can’t wait until the UBCM Virtual Conference this September when I will be appointed for a one year term position to their board (the Presidents of each area association are appointed to the board and as I currently sit as the President of NCLGA, I will join UBCM in September).

I am very slow to respond to email so if you ever have any questions or want to reach out, please do. The best way to get in touch is to text or call me and you can find my contact details on the contact page of my site.

If you made it this far, thanks for coming along on this journey with me. I have loved every step of it along the way.

All my best,