Today is my last day in service as councillor to North Cowichan residents. Tomorrow, your new council will be sworn in and will take the reins of our finances, bylaws, and policies for the next four years. I’m delighted with this new council. Our community chose a diverse group of residents to represent our varied interests, who I believe, if they remember to check their egos at the door, will set all of us up for success.
It wasn’t an easy decision not to run for a second term. To anyone who asks me about my four years on council, I tell them it’s one of the best things I have ever done. I am not the same person I was four years ago thanks to a deep and meaningful education in municipal governance and diplomacy. I would have happily run again, but as a working mother, my life decisions are sometimes consensus based.
In June 2017, I began my current job as constituency assistant to Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley. It has been an incredible year and a half learning about provincial government, the role of the MLA, Sonia’s unique situation as Deputy Leader and House Leader for the Green Party, and about constituency work, governance, legislation, and, generally, how to change the world at a provincial level. The learning curve has been steep, and I have made some character-building mistakes, but I am proud of my work and my employer. Sonia is all of the things she promises to be, and it has been a pleasure to witness her own leadership growth this year.
Exciting as all of it was, the workload took its toll. In May last year, my body started talking to me, suggesting that maybe I was overworked. My heart was doing a weird syncopation, I had gained weight from a lack of consistent exercise, my back was sore, and I was constantly tired. I flew to Ireland for two weeks in June for a holiday with my mom and one of my kids, and when I returned, refreshed, it was clear I needed to make a change to my lifestyle. Council elections were four months away and, as it is a part-time job, it was clear what I would have to let go.
When I mentioned the idea of not running again to the mister, I was surprised to learn how relieved he was. He was so proud of me in the role, but the unpredictable schedule of public events and meetings impacted him more than I was aware. When I was elected, the girls were aged 4, 6, and 8. All the meetings that took place in and around dinner time were disruptive to the girls, the mister, and to our Maple Bay neighbour Heather Kaye who often took on the burden of babysitting when Richard was working. The constant juggle of schedules wasn’t fun.
When I asked the girls what they thought about me not running again, they cheered. The eldest has enjoyed following me on my journey, and now that the middle is older, she has engaged in the work too. They have learned so much about their community and how it works; it’s an unintended but pleasing consequence of the job. But nothing compares to having mommy home more, so there was no hesitation in their support for me not being on council.
It took me until the final hour of the final day of submitting nomination papers to finally make my mind up. I will miss the challenge of answering questions that have no clear answer, and finding those difficult answers with a group of people who see the world differently than I do. I will miss being able to vote, which is an empowering experience. I will miss the wonderful staff who work hard to meet the public’s expectations every day.
Who knows how my journey will continue but if I find myself in a place where I can afford — financially, emotionally, and in time — to run again, I would happily do it. If you are thinking about running for council, even just a little bit, please do. You’ll not regret it.
Dear North Cowichan, thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s been a blast.