When I ran in 2007, I put my name forward to serve in part because I did not believe that the needs of younger Edmontonians were being reflected in the decisions at City Hall. At the age of 23, I had recently graduated with my Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta and felt it was important to have those different voices helping to make the decisions.
During that election there were only 6 wards and 2 councillors were elected per ward. Although I finished 3rd of 4 candidates, it was a very very distant 3rd. I was obviously disappointed but I saw that a 28-year old had just been elected to Edmonton City Council after gaining more votes than one of the incumbents running in the same ward. That new councillor was Don Iveson.
It was exciting to see that a younger Edmontonian was elected to serve the people of Edmonton and I enjoyed the opportunity to closely watch the work of this new councillor. Early on in his career, the thing I remember most about his work was his openness with Edmontonians. On every major issue, Don would write a detailed blog on his website explaining how he came to his decision. While I didn’t always agree with his decision, I almost always understood his perspective on the issue and how he came to his decision.
That desire to provide such detail when discussing important issues served as an inspiration to me for the years to come. I knew that I was going to run again and I realized that since it would be impossible to have every person agree all the time, the next best thing I could do is take the time to thoroughly explain my position on different topics so that people could understand how I came to make a decision. One of the best ways to reduce anger in politics is to be as transparent as possible. Don set the standard for engaging in full sentences and we are better because of it.
When I was fortunate to be elected to serve the people of Edmonton in 2013, I was amazed to see that in an open mayoral race, that any candidate could get about 62% of the vote. That’s quite rare but it showed me that it is possible to bring people together from across the political spectrum when you present them with a positive vision for the future.
Since I was only elected in 2013 with 44% of the vote, I used his result as my inspiration to reach out to everyone, not just those that voted for me. I wanted to see if it would be possible to grow support over the years by engaging every person possible.
Going into the 2017 election, I hoped that through my work I would be able to earn the support of even more people. While I was unable to match Mayor Iveson’s 73.6% vote total in 2017, I was fortunate to receive over 68% of the vote in Ward 1. That result was a direct result of the example Don set for everyone. He proved that it is possible to continue to bring people together in a world that was beginning to become more polarized.
One of the things I have appreciated the most about Don is his ability to run our meetings. I realize that may sound incredibly boring to many people but it’s actually critical to creating an environment where the best decisions can be made. Whether we have agreed or disagreed, I have always had the ability to share my point of view without fear of repercussions.
The meetings have also been run in a way that allowed any member of council to bring forward their ideas for debate by all of council. While our governance system already permits this, it is possible to be so rigid with governance that it discourages people from trying to bring about change. Since council is made up of 13 different people, it is critical for members of council to know they have the ability to create change. The way he managed our meetings should serve as a model for any person who is responsible for running a meeting.
While I could write more, I want to end by simply thanking Don Iveson for his dedication to the people of Edmonton. Although more people voted for Don in 2017 than in any mayoral race before, I cannot imagine the pressure one must feel in that role. Whether you were one of the over 72% of people who voted to re-elect Don in 2017 or part of the 28%, I hope everyone takes some time to thank him for his dedication to Edmonton.
I’ve learned a lot from his leadership over the years and I know the City of Edmonton is in a better place today because of his service to all Edmontonians. Thank you Don for all that you have done for Edmonton.