COLUMN: Counsel for council candidates (and voters)

What can voters expect from you? What do you need to be thinking about and preparing for?

Ah, election time. If I hadn’t made a better decision (to retire!), I’d be in the fray as a candidate for city council for the 10th time. Instead, I am going to claim veteran’s rights (even though I hate being called that) and offer some advice to candidates.

What can voters expect from you? What do you need to be thinking about and preparing for?

First, prepare to deeply engage with your community. You may think you know Nelson well (it’s a small town, after all), but as I quickly discovered (and continue to discover) there are many facets you’ve likely never encountered or even imagined. That diversity creates the fabric of this special place. It’s an incredible richness. It also makes Nelson challenging to govern.

So many voices and opinions.  So many passionate people, who will love you or lambaste you.

Prepare to know yourself. Understanding how you make decisions is critical, or you’ll have tormented nights (speaking from experience).

What values guide your decisions? How do you determine the greatest good? How do you weigh the trade-offs? Do you talk your way to decisions, or do you need a decision-making matrix to help?

If you lack confidence that you have given an issue full and fair consideration, your integrity (and potentially your sanity) will be at risk. And that, I think, is the greatest legacy a politician can leave — to have acted with integrity.

Prepare to work hard. You may be passionate about the arts or job creation or water metering. And that’s great. Just be aware that you will spend way more time on topics you currently have absolutely no interest in. But, hopefully, you’ll discover the importance and the charm of water pipes and sewage treatment, of parking and tree management, of development variances and the dog bylaw (oh, maybe not that one).

Working hard means much more than just attending meetings. You can spend all your time racing from one meeting to another in this very busy community. And at the end of your term you’ll wonder what you actually contributed or accomplished, besides showing up.

Prepare to learn how things work at the City. Figure out how to initiate and advance ideas. That might mean simply bringing forward a motion to council (which some council members, despite years at the table, still struggle with). Or it might be a whole new initiative — how do you get it on the agenda, how do you build support, how do you follow through?

Some people try to make things happen by loud-voiced intimidation. Others try wheedling. Others just stay focussed on doing the work. Obviously, I favour the latter. The first two seed bad relations among council members, and are all too common.

We have excellent staff at the city, and I’ve learned not to overload them. They’re super great but not superhuman! We have systems in place to prioritize work — whether it’s writing new policies, resolving outstanding issues, or updating ancient bylaws (some look like they were typed on a typewriter, if you remember what that is). It’s comforting and productive for everyone to know the plan, and follow it (even when the unexpected curve ball comes).

Your main workplace will be like a sandbox. Around the council table will be people you like and others that just exasperate you. Prepare to rise above those feelings, and look for the ideas, beliefs or values that you share.  Humour, patience and gentle smiles go a long way. But when things go sideways (e.g., someone’s on a rant), you also need to be strong and insist that civility, decorum and respect are maintained around the table.

Be prepared for the ride of your life. If you are elected, you will experience an amazing journey — not always fun, but always interesting and meaningful. You will help to guide our community. Do it thoughtfully and carefully, and with confidence in this place and in yourself.

Good luck, everyone!


— Donna Macdonald is a councillor with the City of Nelson. She shares this space

with her  collegues

Just Posted

EDITORIAL: Federal NDP challenges evident on Kootenay campaign trip

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tours the Kootenays in support of local MPs, proportional representation

Columbia Basin Trust announces grant for technology upgrades

The deadline for organizations to apply is Dec. 17

Leafs fall to Braves, Twitter fight breaks out

Nelson gave up two goals in the third en route to a 4-2 loss

Police receive phone calls about suspicious person soliciting door to door

Police received 50 calls for assistance from November 13 to November 20.

Cardiac arrest survivor saved by passerby

People who know CPR can now register with a new phone app to notify them of nearby emergencies

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

The latest advent calendar trend: Holiday cannabis

A Canadian company is giving people from coast to coast a new way to celebrate the Christmas countdown.

B.C. woman allegedly threatens to rip out intestines of American man

A Kamloops-area woman is accused of harassing and threatening to disembowel an American man

B.C. model looks a lot like expanded taxi industry, ride-hailing group says

Ridesharing Now for BC says it had hoped the bill would be more customer-driven like in other cities

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

Most Read