It’s not easy being the mayor

Former Terrace councillor outlines challenges of elected office

By Marylin Davies

More so than in past years, the election door to city hall is going to be wide open when voters go to the polls in November.

The current mayor is not running again so this job is up for grabs. A sitting city councillor now wants the top job as does as a former city councillor. That frees up one council seat. The second council seat to be freed up is mine insofar as I resigned in the spring to move to our new home on Vancouver Island.

In all, that makes three seats for which there are no incumbents when voters gather to elect the mayor and six city council members.

If we are really lucky there will be a few candidates who have done their homework, know what the job entails and how much time it takes you away from your family. We should be blessed to have such candidates.

It is into this mix that you, the electorate, step.

We have a dismal turnout at election time.  Some put it down to disinterest, others to disgust, and still others to “who cares?”  with the opinion elected officials will do what they want anyway. A sad commentary on democratic heritage.

Your main dilemma is what do you want in a mayor. You want your mayor to be scrupulously honest, respected by his or her fellow citizens, other levels of government and city hall staffers. The mayor must be a person of the highest integrity in business and in personal life.

However, there is an ongoing saga of the Toronto mayor with his followers saying that what you do on your own time should not be scrutinized by the public, so common sense may not be so common any more.

Do you want a leader whose day job puts him/her in a position of conflict? Always the old faithful words “I will step out, if I am in conflict” come forth.

But the inference and suggestion of favouritism once established is embedded in the minds of those who need an advantage and by those who won’t try because they think the mayor’s choice is already made.

Then there is a little matter of attendance.  The mayor is one of seven elected by you to serve your community.

You have a right to expect regular attendance, a fair hearing on all matters, and an accessible leader who listens.

If the mayor is not available repeatedly, it tells you how little he values your opinion. (I’ll use ‘he’ here for ease of writing?)

As mayor it is his responsibility to communicate to the council, staff, and the community. He is a chair, an advocate for the council decisions, but not a dictator, and not allowed to elevate his opinions over that of his council.

Some would say he is merely the chairperson.  A good question to ask yourself is “will he listen to me” or are his opinions already formed, shaped by a special interest group?

While it is true the mayor and council are expected to weigh the opinions of all community interests – big business, small business, developers, retirees, social issues not to mention, roads, sewers, water, and recreation, policing, fire protection and city staffing – it is still their responsibility to balance a budget every year.  That’s a staggering responsibility even for those who are well paid.

Ask your candidates, what do you know about council in general, the time and commitment it takes, and lastly, if you are the successful mayoral candidate, what do you hope to accomplish to leave your mark on our community?

If you don’t like what you hear, you have the time and the responsibility as voters, to attempt to get candidates that reflect the community at large, and have a vision for the future.

It just might even be your turn to step up.  Nominations close in early October.  There is time to be proactive in selecting the next mayor.

Terrace has been blessed with a history of dedicated mayors whose commitment to the community has been exemplary.

It need not be any other way.

Marylin Davies was a Terrace city council member from 2001 to 2008 and again from 2011 to this spring when she resigned and moved to Vancouver Island.