The ‘Real’ Disappointments

I started this blogging adventure with an invitation to all mayoral candidates to hang out and let me get know the person behind the politician. I received an overwhelming response – McKenzie, Nenshi, Burrows, and Higgins. So thanks – to those of you that followed me along my adventure.

I thought it was only fair to let you know my dialogues … or non-dialogues … with the candidates I didn’t have a chance to hang out with. It’s only transparent and fair of me to give some credit where credit is due.

The most credit goes to candidate Jon Lord. We attempted to make schedules jive several times. We spoke back and forth through Facebook messages. I liked that – very personal – very friendly and obviously evidence he monitors his own account. He sent me an official invitation to watch him speak at his church on Thanksgiving Sunday. His topic was “enthusiasm” – something he told me he was excited about. I do think he has shown great enthusiasm throughout this race. My own Thanksgiving family commitments did not allow me to go that morning – although any other Sunday I would have gone happily and I would have dragged @ppilarski along too. Lord followed up with an invitation for coffee down in his neck of the woods in SW Calgary – or Chinese for dinner one night. Apparently, he enjoys it “once and while”. I told him my schedule and did not hear back. I chalk that up to it being the last week before the election. He certainly tried and I appreciate that.

Jon Lord also commented on my original blog posted on CalgaryPolitics.com. This to me shows that from day one he had an interest in sharing with Calgarians the ‘real’ man behind the campaign.

Ric McIver doesn’t get credit but his team of volunteers does. After my blog went up I was contacted by one of his youth volunteers, a University of Calgary student that was heading up his “McIver for Mayor” efforts on campus. He perceived this blog, and invitation, as a great opportunity for Ric. He told me he had forwarded it on to a “higher level” in the campaign and I would hopefully hear from someone soon. Time passed and I didn’t hear from anyone. At the beginning of October I sent a follow up email to this volunteer and copied an email address I found on the website. The volunteer replied again saying that they were attempting to get me on the schedule. I followed up one last time and was basically told he was busy with other media requests. Understandable. I very much appreciate his team attempting to get me some time with Ric – I feel like I can almost be certain he had never heard of the blog. But who knows. I think this blog could have been quite interesting if given the opportunity to write it. McIver comes across as a politician to the core. What does he do on a Saturday night? I can’t even imagine! I hear he is big into our arts community … perhaps a play? Or time listening to the CPO?

I did attempt to talk to Hawkesworth. He didn’t get in touch with me – but his online army certainly did when my blogs began to come out. I thought it would be worth reaching out myself. An email received no response. Numerous tweets to Bob directly were not replied to – this to me was the most surprising because throughout #yycvote I had been involved in a few back and forths with Bob on Twitter. Most having to do with authenticity and using social media appropriately. I remain perplexed as to why Bob wouldn’t reach out to my invitation via Twitter. I asked his online army to pass along my invitation as well – it met the response that they wouldn’t because I was biased and would write negatively about their candidate. Too bad – I also think it would have been fun hanging out with Bob, especially after the latest Herald article about his thoughts on spending the day at the spa after realizing his 30 year political reign in the city had come to an end. I would never turn down a chance to get a pedicure.

I never heard a peep from Connelly – although I did mention I’d be interested in sitting down with him to a family member of a volunteer on his campaign.

Wayne Stewart approached me at a forum I attended and said with a big smile, “It is so nice to see the young people getting involved in politics.” That was the last I heard of him. And I know I’m young but the whole encounter turned me off. I’m not just a “young person” curious about politics – I’m passionate about them and about this city, and striving to choose the best mayor for the job. I never heard from his campaign – I did mention the blog to someone volunteering for him and he said he would mention it during a campaign meeting.

Bonnie Devine, Barry Erskine, Sandra Hunter, Gary Johnston, Dan Knight, Amanda Liu … well I don’t blame them for not getting in touch with me because I don’t think they’ve gotten in touch with anyone.

I talked to Fech in person – he was flabbergasted I had been tweeting about him … that anyone had been tweeting about him. And I really get the sense that we have all been exposed to the ‘real’ Oscar Fech over the course of this election, and every election that he has been involved with. What you see is what you get with that guy and I certainly hope he isn’t going away – the next council will need his outspoken accountability just as much as the last. Citizens like that are what keep politicians on their toes.

Actually I’m hoping we can all be “citizens like that” via social media long after #yycvote is over. I want this passion to transfer over to #yyccc … so I’ll see you there Calgary!

CR xo

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(this has been cross-posted from CalgaryPolitics.com on October 16, 2010)

‘Real’ Encouragement from a ‘Real’ Passionate Calgarian: Drinks with Barb Higgins

I had been attempting to sit down with Barb since the week after my original blog had been published. A member of her team contacted me and let me know that this “interview” was important to them. Throughout the course of the last month I received emails and the occasional phone call asking my availability for the week ahead. On Friday night I was asked if I could be flexible over the long weekend. As a citizen blogger my answer was, of course, YES – except for the thanksgiving dinner factor on Sunday night. That was unlucky for me because I was invited to experience the Flames home opener with Barb that night. I really chalked it up to bad luck and bad timing. The next morning, to my surprise, one of Barb’s volunteers called and asked if I could meet for drinks at 8pm.

My day continued like any other – and when 7pm rolled around @ppilarski and I got ready and headed out to meet the mayoral candidate. We were meeting at Earls on 4th Street; as a resident of Mission Barb says that 4th Street is one of her favourite hangout spots, especially the Joyce.

We were greeted by a Barb volunteer and sat down in the restaurant. We chatted for a bit, and found out Barb was on route. At this moment her partner, Brad, walked in. He sat down with us and was surprised I was the blogger. I started to explain the concept to him and Barb barrelled into the restaurant. I say barrelled because she has so much energy that you literally feel it when she enters the room – big smile, moving quickly, bright appearance. She is with her campaign manager. Brad and the manager excuse themselves to the lounge; they have a football game to watch. Barb sits down right beside me and says she wants to be close so that she can get to know me.

She is wearing jeans, a blazer and a scarf. I noted this because I’ve never seen her in jeans during the course of this race. I appreciated that she came casually – she came as her weekend self. The first thing she explains is about keeping her purse around her ankle on the floor. A stolen purse in South America taught her that lesson. This leads to a conversation about travelling. The conversation about travelling leads to a conversation about Calgary. This was a turning point in our conversation. At first it was clear that Barb really did not know what to expect – but she warmed up to @ppilarski and me, and started being ‘real’ within a few minutes.

After her warm up it became very clear that her strength was being one on one with people. She looked you right in the eye when you spoke and when she responded. She never hesitated and she never held back. She was enthusiastic, down to earth, and exuded confidence.

“There is nowhere else on earth like Calgary. The energy here is different. You can propose an idea and people get excited about it. They want to do it and they find a way to get it done. It’s refreshing. I love it here.”

We agree that Calgary is a special place; it breeds and attracts individuals that are bold go getters. It’s clear she understands the people of this city. I’ve grown up here my entire life – I know that vibe, I live that vibe, and it is important to me that a mayoral candidate would recognize it and be willing to nurture it.

We talk about her campaign. “I feel like we have finally figured it out – we are finally gelling.” She explains that she felt as if she couldn’t be herself early on in the campaign. She couldn’t handle that anymore, switched up her campaign team (as we all know), and finally felt free to speak her mind and run the campaign the way she envisioned it. I feel like getting to spend some time with her was a direct result of a more organized team – a guest blogger for CalgaryPolitics was no longer on a list, but on the “things to do” list.

I ask her about social media – I had to it’s my passion. “I tried the Twitter thing. At the beginning it was all me and I’d respond to tweets before bed. I was willing to get behind it and use it every day but people just got really nasty. I stopped surrounding myself with nasty people in my real life a long time ago. You shouldn’t surround yourself with those people. If I was sitting here with someone treating me badly I’d pay the bill, wish them well and leave. That’s what I did with Twitter.” She explained what an avid Facebook user she was before the election. She loved sharing pictures and catching up with friends online. She suspended her personal Facebook account for the election and is focusing on her political one. She likes it and feels she is using it effectively. She likes responding to comments online. “It’s like we are sitting here at Earl’s, we are having a good time, but the people at the Joyce across the street are mad because we are here and they are over there. Come on! I picked a restaurant and you are free to come here too. That’s kind of how I feel about Facebook and Twitter. I ended up picking one and anyone is welcome to join me there.”

I’m impressed by her understanding of social media and how it is being used. True, she had no idea about my blog but she did understand its potential and knew about CalgaryPolitics. She told me she was tired of going to bed angry after reading the day’s tweets. I can live with that response. We are all aware there are some angry voices on Twitter this election (something I need to blog about too). Do I wish she would have tried Twitter longer, yes; do I think she understands it will be important to engage on social media in some way if she wins the mayor’s chair, yes.

A conversation about Facebook undoubtedly leads us to a discussion about friends. Those are the people that convinced her running was what she needed to do. Similar to Nenshi, she was looking for a strong candidate to support and bring change to city council. When she didn’t find that, she started to realize that perhaps she needed to step up. “I was physically surrounded by friends at a Wednesday night Stampede party. They were from all different areas of my life, old and new.” They all wanted her to run for mayor, so she invited them over for breakfast on Friday. Dressed in Stampede gear, they all committed to Barb to help; she made them look her right in the eye and promise.

“Then I realized I had to quit my job!” She took time off from work and came in to give notice over her holidays. “I usually go out of town when I’m on vacation from work so when I walked into the newsroom everyone knew something was going on.” Darryl Janz, of course, took the news the hardest. “He cried. I love him. He is a special man.” Barb hasn’t regretted a single moment since. “I know in my heart this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now.”

During the course of our conversation Barb says hello and gives big thanks to a table of her volunteers beside us. She tells me that she spent Sunday phoning volunteers and thanking them, “that’s what I was thankful for this Thanksgiving. I just can’t explain how thankful I am to all these people. I never expected it. I knew I’d have name recognition and people would trust me after my experience as their evening news anchor, but this has been incredible.”

We talk about the fact that the mayor will have to deal with becoming a local celebrity. “I dealt with that in my twenties,” Barb explains. “I have learned how to use my influence to highlight issues that matter. This isn’t about me. I’m doing this because I can facilitate change and point out the issues in this city.” She alludes to the fact that some candidates running will have to adjust to all the popularity they will receive; walking down the street won’t just be walking down the street anymore. She won’t need this adjustment time.

Barb pays the bill as soon as it gets to the table. The waitress recognizes her and we all chat about the election. Barb explains how to vote – unfortunately this young lady has only been a Calgary resident for 2 months.

Barb turns to me directly and shifts her focus. She wants to know about me; something I had asked in my original blog “what would candidates ask me?” @ppilaski and her volunteer begin to banter – it’s just Barb and I. I feel like she has known me for a while, like a mentor. She encourages me on my path of communications and reminds me to go with my gut. We both understand what it is to be passionate and she says she is excited to see where I will end up. Wow. This conversation continues for at least 10 minutes.

I receive a big hug from Barb and @ppilarski gets a firm handshake. “I’m so glad I got to sit down and do this,” Barb gushes, and you can tell she isn’t blowing smoke up my behind … she genuinely enjoyed giving me an hour and a half of her time. She comments that at this time next week she will be in front of a television biting her nails. One week away from election day and she is still willing to give me so much time. “I wish I could sit down like this with everyone in this city. I want to know their stories. Calgary is made up of people with incredible stories. To understand them is how you understand the needs of the city.”

I walk out with @ppilarski and say “Wow, that’s not what I was expecting.” I’m impressed. She literally opened up her heart for an hour and a half, no pauses, no awkward moments, straight constant attention and conversation, no politicking just people. Her passion and grace overflows – and she is eager to pour it out over Calgary.

CR xo

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(this has been cross-posted from CalgaryPolitics.com on October 13, 2010)

The ‘Real’ Calgarian Candidate on Skates: Thursday Evening with Craig Burrows

I first met Craig Burrows through a mutual friend. It was shortly after my original blog about discovering the real people behind the mayoral candidates that I “bumped” in to him at the Barley Mill in Eau Claire Market. He was immediately interested in the idea of showing people the real him. “I’m an avid golfer. When I’m trying to relax before getting to sleep I dream about being on the green,” he explained while beaming. I told him to take me out for a round – after all I’m a firm believer that everyone’s true colours come out on the course.

Time passed … and our terrible month of weather continued. Craig contacted me, personally, still eager to show Calgary the man behind the mayoral candidate. He was playing hockey at the Westside Rec Centre on Thursday evening with his team the Stumplejumpers. Yes, I did ask right away what that team name meant, and the response – “Don’t ask!”

Craig has been playing with this group of guys since the Westside Rec Centre opened. Many of his teammates are made up of the volunteers and board members that were responsible for the construction of the Centre. “I literally had to try out [for this team].” Burrows admits it was a tough crowd. But he clearly had what it took to impress them – at least it looked that way on the Thursday evening I went to watch him play.

The team very much looks like a team on the ice and on the bench. They seem to be in sync with one another, and happy to be playing together. The Stumplejumpers are in white jerseys – Craig happens to be wearing his Team Burrows jersey (I’m sure you’ve seen these if you’ve been to at least one of the many mayoral forums). No audience, no cheerleaders. It really is just men and their hockey sticks. A Thursday night away from home being guys, having fun, and letting off a week’s worth of steam. The Thursday night at 9pm ice time is ideal – late enough to spend time unwinding with the family after work and early enough to enjoy some “chicken wings and beer” after the game. “We’ve had the ice time since the Centre opened up. We were able to get it as being one of the first groups to organize. Actually, we were offered $10K for the ice time but this is so important for us that we would never sell it. Thursday at 9pm is perfect.”

This particular game was quite special for the Stumplejumpers – not just because I was there but because the CBC was covering their story as well. This hockey team stacked with real Calgarian boys were receiving their 15 minutes of fame.

The game begins.

Craig starts the game on the bench; he is chatting with the CBC reporter. The black jersey wearing team they are playing against is quite aggressive and the Stumplejumpers are a little lacking on their defence – and losing. Craig comes out in the second period after his CBC interview is completed. I couldn’t help but wonder if this reporter knew hockey … clearly not. If she were a real sports fan she would have gotten Burrows on the ice as soon as possible. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he plays hockey – I happen to know because I was one of those girls in high school that somehow always ended up dating the hockey playing type. By the way Burrows fires himself on to the ice it is clear he was itching to get out there. He successfully breaks up a play by the black team and assists a goal during his first shift. During his second shift it was clear Craig wants the puck. He is one of those guys banging his stick on the ice and constantly moving around. I was impressed that he was always looking for the pass and was quite skilled at staying open.

The game continues. You can imagine it to be similar to any amateur hockey game you’ve attended. These guys are serious but they are having fun. Craig is always congratulating team members, the first to laugh when someone (including himself) takes a tumble, and drops the occasional “f-bomb”. The last always made me laugh … wonder how many times he has wanted to let one of those slide during the mayoral forums. Burrows is overall very vocal on the ice – I would confidently call him the most vocal on his team.

He is a good hockey player; he appeared to be tiring half way through his time on the ice, but quickly caught a second wind early in the third period. He is able to play fairly long shifts, clearly an asset to the team. Burrows tells me he started playing hockey as a kid, and played Triple A his whole life. His favourite memory is when he played in front of 16000 people at the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament at 12 years old. He played hockey in university for McGill’s team but quit after school. “I quit right after until I started up again with these guys. I missed it. I love this game.”

The CBC cameraman was making his way around the entire rink during the game. He was taking shots of Burrows on the ice doing his thing. The Stumplejumpers were very conscious of this – and it was hard not to notice the fact that they were trying to give their teammate, Burrows, every opportunity they could. It was endearing. I can’t imagine this is a regular occurrence. The conversation in the locker room, whether Craig was aware or not, was about making their buddy look good. This speaks volumes to me about the attention and respect Craig commands from his hockey playing peers. Craig took every opportunity his boys gave him – including assisting on several goals, and a pretty sweet breakaway ending with a shot on net that bounced off the post.

The last thing I ask Craig is about his favourite NHL hockey player. His team is the Flames (as a sports fan running for Calgary’s mayor I’d say he better be…), and favourite player is Jarome Iginla. “He is a modern day Gordie Howe. If you don’t understand, then you don’t know hockey!” he continues by talking about the Flames. “My fav team is hands down the Flames – no broken ankles from jumping on and off the bandwagon for me.” He says this with a big smirk on his face.

The real Craig Burrows? I’m impressed by him. And surprised by the lack of attention he has gotten in this race. He is clearly a ‘real’ Calgarian boy. Passionate about the city the way he is passionate about hockey. He is respected by his team mates – an indicator of his character. He is true to his commitments – obviously a valuable member of this team, and obviously in campaign hyper drive he makes sure he is at the game giving his all. He is the teams on ice captain – seeing opportunities and playing strategically. His mind is sharp – he is a politician, a planner, and eager. If his real life on ice tactics translate in to his abilities in the mayoral arena I can see why this team agrees he would be the right choice to lead this city.

CR xo

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(this has been cross-posted from CalgaryPolitics.com on October 11, 2010)

‘Real’ Conversation with a ‘Real’ Calgarian: Saturday Night with Naheed Nenshi

It’s Saturday evening, I’m sitting on the couch with iPhone in hand. I was awaiting an important email – an email from Naheed Nenshi.

His “people” had originally planned a get together a week ago – was suppose to be a casual morning meeting at his favourite Calgary cafe. A few days beforehand I received an email rescheduling for the following Saturday night; Mr. Nenshi needed a tag along to the Calgary International Film Festival Closing Gala. My casual coffee had turned in to a night out on the town … I was assured that I would get a chance to see the real Naheed in his element.

“Ding” – it was the email I had been waiting for.

“9:30. And bring a plus-one. We’ll talk our way in. I’m wearing a suit but dress hip and cool if you like … ”

I already had a big spoonful of the man behind the candidate. He is emailing me directly and including smiley faces, and encouraging me that getting in would be no problem – I could only assume that he was just as excited for this meeting of the minds as I was.

As any 20-something girl would do I ran to my closet and tried to personify hip and cool. As well as texting my plus-one (@ppilarski) making sure he was doing the same. I settled on a dress and blazer; in my mind typical Saturday night on the town citizen-blogger attire.

Walking down 8th Avenue towards Seven Restolounge I can already hear Nenshi politicking. His easily recognizable voice was meeting and greeting passersby as he waited for us. Big smile, big confidence, and big energy. He knew it was me right away – I was flattered. He explains that this really is a typical event for him to attend. “I’m a big movie buff. I usually have a pass to the Film Festival and spend the entire 10 days watching films. This year I wasn’t so lucky because there is tons of work to do.” He’s not kidding – with the election a little more than 2 weeks away his time needs to be spent on meeting the people and GOTV-ing.

This place is hip – and its guests certainly are what I would define as the cool of Calgary. We walk in and immediately Nenshi is greeted by several different people. But these people aren’t recognizing him from his big purple signs … these are his people. They are excited for him, relaxed around him, and all willing to spend time helping him. Throughout the entire evening we watched this candidate being embraced by Calgary’s film community: From old acquaintances yelling, “This Guy! This Guy for Mayor!” over the loud music, to lots of hugs and canoodling. This was a glimpse of his social circle and it was increasingly clear that whether he was running for mayor or not he was the big man on this campus. “I’d normally be talking film here. I would have just seen the last movie and came over to meet with my peers and pick it a part. Instead I’m talking politics. This is just as important.”

Between his chats with gala attendees he surprised me by how much he knew about me. He took genuine interest in what I was doing online through this series of blogs; it was clear that he had read what I had posted to date. He also knew of my political background with the PC Party and a few tidbits about my MA work. Needless to say this was impressive to me. Having this information allowed our conversation to flow, he knew where to meet me on certain points, and he knew what questions to ask of me. This was something I asked for in my first blog … I was curious how a mayoral candidate would engage someone like me. After all as a voter I shouldn’t have to do all the work … they are the ones after my checkmark! At this point, of course, I wonder if he just has great staffers with the ability to brief him as if he were a provincial Minister.

“We have no one on a paid salary. My entire campaign is made up of volunteers. It’s incredible to me and I still don’t believe it.” He goes on to explain that volunteers are made up of people from all political persuasions, from all pockets of the city, and even from outside Calgary. It is clear he is overwhelmed by the support he is receiving, and has been receiving since he made his official announcement to run in April of this year. “We weren’t going to do any door knocking. We just figured it would be impossible to cover all the doors while trying to prioritize everything else. But we have had so many respond to our continued call for volunteers we’ve been able to start getting them out to doors.”

By this time in the evening I had bumped in to a former student. She was volunteering for the Festival and was a bit of a lost sheep that evening. Nenshi invited her to tag along with us. He didn’t think twice and treated her as if he knew her well. I was impressed that he was so natural around people … all people. So natural in fact he was invited upstairs to a private birthday party. Upstairs he does more politicking – including with a former student who thought it was “neat” that his former prof was taking a run for the mayor’s office.

As Nenshi chatted, I found myself in a strange conversation with a Calgarian making sure he was making the most out of his Saturday night. This almost coherent conversation came to an end when Naheed whisked us away to sit and finally chat one on one. “Looked like you needed some rescuing,” very perceptive of him and appreciated by me. The four of us sit down, @ppilarski, my former student, myself and Nenshi. He has a diet Coke in hand, while my beau and I finish our beers (I’m a born and raised Calgarian girl, you shouldn’t expect I’d be drinking anything else).

Naheed is giving me his utmost attention. Hands folded on top of his glass and his chin resting on top. The only word I can use to describe his posture is cute. He begins telling me his story of beginning to search for the perfect mayoral candidate; those searching with him began realizing he was exactly what they were all looking for. “When Dave announced he would not seek re-election my phone was ringing off the hook. People asking when I would be announcing I was running. People asking if I was running. And people telling me they needed to meet with me as soon as possible so they could convince me to run.” After conversations with family and close friends it was clear that a run at mayor was something Nenshi needed to do. He was, and is, confident he can usher in the change the city needs. So confident in fact he believes it is a two horse race: McIver and himself. He repeated this several times throughout the evening.

For the next hour we talked provincial politics, aldermanic races, towing party lines, social media, Calgary, and Calgarians. He was open, transparent, and honest. He let me know his honest opinions when I asked. It was like talking to a friend. No awkward pauses, moments, just a fluid conversation.

I was impressed that Naheed Nenshi really did let this Calgary blogger see the real him. The real Nenshi is a passionate guy – passionate about his friends, his students, his network, and this city. “I was just a kid who grew up in NE Calgary. I know what it is like to live in this city, to make this city your home. I’ve lived here longer than any of the other mayoral candidates.”

I was most impressed that he gave me so much time. Just as I was impressed that Derek McKenzie was so conscious of being late. To me time is the most important thing you can give to someone. He was never rushed or looking at his watch. At midnight we all decided to call it a night, very Cinderella of us.

CR xo

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(this has been cross-posted from CalgaryPolitics.com on October 8, 2010)

A ‘Real’ Candidate becomes a ‘Real’ Voter: Coffee with Derek McKenzie

I’m going on my seventh year of roaming the halls of the University of Calgary. As a Masters student I don’t get out much … around campus that is. Yesterday was the first time in a long while I had headed out of my office and over to Mac Hall, a hub for undergraduate students – they gather there for the essentials of university including: books, bathrooms, burgers, beer, babes, and coffee (by the buckets full).  Derek McKenzie, recent mayoral race dropout, was going to meet me at Tim Horton’s for an afternoon caffeine rush before his 3 o’clock class.

McKenzie had set up this meeting with me nearly a week ago. It was his way of responding to my previous blog. He wanted to show me his real self. He wanted Calgarians to meet the single-dad behind the politician. When my TweetDeck lit up with notification that he had called the race quits Monday morning I was nervous my first blog interview would be cancelled – but he very much still wanted to share his experiences with me. That excited me; this guy, busy guy, still wanted to make time for a young Calgary blogger.

Just as I began getting thirsty Derek appeared – right on time. His striped scarf, glasses, and bag certainly helped him play the role of the student well. He picks up the tab for my peppermint tea and his XL coffee. Conscious of the time Derek suggests we walk and chat through the university. He doesn’t want to be late for his class. I make a brief note to self about his dedication to anti-tardiness. Something rare among political types; in my experience many forget that your time (and in this case his teacher’s time) is just as valuable as their own.

As we walk Derek explains to me that he is definitely the quirkiest on out of his network. His “real life” circle of family and friends were taken by surprise at his decision to run for the mayor’s seat – but he explained they quickly came to terms with the fact that this is just something Derek would be crazy enough to do. His mom finally took him seriously when the website went up and flyers went out. His son was over the moon to see his dad in the Herald … but not excited enough to make it his show and tell at school.

“I’m a weekend dad. Campaigning takes away from the only time I have with my son,” says McKenzie. His decision to pull out had a lot to do with that. At this point in his son’s life he needs to be around as much as possible. “It wasn’t an easy choice. I didn’t sleep this weekend.”

He did very much want to lead this city though. We walked through the crisp September air (where the heck did the sun go anyways?) and he explained that the job of the mayor will be a challenge, one that he was up for. “The mayor has to be willing to herd,” McKenzie explains. He believes that the job of the mayor isn’t just another voice on council, but the voice that is able to bring all the voices together, make tough, but firm, decisions on split-votes, and “herd” aldermen together in to a strong, reliable team.

“The future of Calgary has always been important to me. I truly wanted to make a difference in City Hall and affect the future. The future depends on what we are doing now.” At the point in our conversation I saw Derek McKenzie: dad, show his true colours. His investment in the city’s future was pure, genuine, passionate, and came from a place that only a parent could conjure.

McKenzie’s platform had a strong focus on sustainability. His work in the past for the PC Party included drafting energy policy, his current research on water, and his future ambitions to look at air all demonstrate to me that he is invested in a sustainable future, or at least in understanding it. He wasn’t just trying to get attention by using a sexy word. “I take the train to university. I carpool every morning.”

Derek expressed how lucky he felt to be a part of the race the last several weeks. In regards to my quest to find the real people behind the candidates, he said he had been given the opportunity to do exactly that. “My opinions about some candidates have definitely changed.” He was surprised by the kindness of some and annoyed by the sliminess of others. “I got to see most of the people behind the politicians.” The ones that didn’t seem to have a real person behind the political face did not impress him.

So what’s next?

McKenzie has decided to support Naheed Nenshi for mayor. “I will be supporting him in whatever capacity I can, and I will definitely be attending future forums”. Derek sent an email to Nenshi’s office early Monday morning and quickly received a reply from the man himself. Derek feels that Nenshi would provide the change this city needs and did see a real person, with real passion behind the politician.

Personally McKenzie feels as if he has become more polished, and more prepared for the world of politics. “I’ve gotten to sit down with so many people, businesses and boards. This opportunity has allowed me to meet people and to get a sense of what it is to speak and truly get your ideas across in an effective way to a room full of people. “

At this point Derek and I are sitting in his classroom. It’s beginning to fill up and the clock is counting down. With a few minutes left he tells me about a friend he wrestled with on his high school team. “He said once that people never really care where you’ve been; people care about the relationship they have with you. That’s what politics is all about for me; relationships with people. I want to understand people, and I want them to understand me. That’s how you make a great city greater.”

After a line like that it was no surprise to hear that McKenzie had put his name forward for the nomination of the PC MLA candidate in the constituency of Calgary-Varsity. He sent an email with his intentions to run immediately after his email explaining he would not be running for mayor. What do I think about this? It’s great. After sipping a hot drink with this ex-mayoral candidate it is clear to me he is passionate about more than winning an election, but the ‘real’ Derek McKenzie is passionate about making our world a better place.

We raise our drinks, “Cheers!” and I’m gone … back to my office.

This ‘real’ mayoral candidate drop-out is now a ‘real’ voter, ‘real’ Nenshi volunteer, and ‘real’ hopeful for provincial nominee.

My search continues … inspire me candidates. Do you eat pizza on Friday night? Get nervous before a speech? Why are you running and why has your life led to this point?

CR xo

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(this has been cross-posted from CalgaryPolitics.com on September 22, 2010)

It’s Saturday Night… Do you know where your Mayoral Candidates Are?

I sit up on a Saturday evening … and like the nerdy, politically astute female I am I wonder what my mayoral candidates are up to. Saturday night is the stereotypical date night; the night away, the night off, the night checked out from the world of politics.

Looking through my TweetDeck I find that the hashtag #nomnomnom brings me to find individuals enjoying funnel cake, chocolate chip cookie dough, and @eliz_rocks enjoying “deep fried cheese curds”. Obviously the single people of the world are connecting via terrible food this evening. I flip over to #yycvote and find that people are all a buzz talking about Burrows’ hired plane circling GlobalFest with a “Vote Burrows” banner behind it (via @djkelly), Kent Hehr at his fundraiser being interviewed by one of our own, @oberhoffner, and Hawkesworth reminding us to sign up for his fundraiser supporting a sustainable Calgary … whatever that means.

But aren’t our candidates real people? How do they enjoy their Saturday night … honestly …

I ponder the idea of the rich, successful, suave politician – entering an exclusive Calgary bar (do we even have one?), talking to the “common folk” with a martini, a smirk, and all the right answers. I feel myself instantly being swayed as I hear their vision for a better Calgary and realize that they like going out and socializing just like I do on a Saturday night. They are honest and not bashful about the fact that they are just as typical as I am in this city.

Now the nail is hit on the head – why haven’t I picked a candidate to support yet? Why haven’t I been wooed by a potential front runner? Why haven’t I gotten excited about the potential of a future leader in Calgary? It all comes down to the fact that I just can’t see these candidates as real people.

Ok – a bit harsh, I know. So I open up the video file of the last mayoral forum online. I witness Craig Burrows talking about growing up as a boy in neighbourhood of minorities, Joe Connelly being excited about wearing Pilipino garb, Nenshi giving the same speech I saw on his YouTube video, McIver saying no, and Barb Higgins reminding me I was but a little person that she was willing to listen to. I imagine sitting down for coffee with each of the 14 candidates … what would they think of me? A born and raised 23 year old graduate student at the University of Calgary, passionate about social media and excited about the future of this city. I know what I would ask them, but I wonder what they would end up asking me. A key idea that we often overlook; we always have questions for them – but really they should have questions for us too. We are the people they want to represent.

And as I strive to make a decision about which candidate to support, I realize I am looking for an actual person. I’m curious if they are sitting on TweetDeck on Saturday night, or out with a loved one, or sharing their evening with a room of passionate volunteers. I realize that I’m looking for a real person to represent me; someone who understands that it is important to be honest and authentic when answering questions on Twitter and key to be assuming that the average Calgarian has never heard their name before.

I keep looking to Twitter for glimpses of this real person. Hoping for responses to questions that don’t sound negotiated or developed by staff; replies to direct messages for coffee invitations; twit pics featuring their Saturday night enjoying this marvelous city. Where are these indications of real people? Am I missing something? Or are my fellow Calgarians waiting for the same thing?

Why do I want a real person representing this city? Because I’m a real person – my parents are real people – my colleagues are – and my friends are. I want someone who gets what it is like to be in Calgary on a Saturday night and truly feel privileged to be here.

Candidates – I’m waiting to hear why you love this city. Of course it is because of the great people – but why? Why are you the real person that should represent Calgary? And why are you the real person that should win over my support and admiration? Why are you the mayor that is willing to support me, the passionate citizen?

Inspire me mayoral candidates … I’m begging for it.

CR xo

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(this has been cross-posted from CalgaryPolitics.com on September 1, 2010)