Getting comfortable in new political role

Mission’s four rookie councillors adjusting to public life

It has been just over three months since Mission voters elected a new council.

Mayor Pam Alexis and councillors Carol Hamilton and Danny Plecas are returning veterans to the council table. Four brand new councillors – Cal Crawford, Mark Davies, Jag Gill and Ken Herar – were also voted into power.

It has been a hectic 90 days for the rookies.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” said Ken Herar.

He said, even as a young boy, he always followed Mission politics.

“I had a general sense of the workload and responsibilities of a local councillor, but until you get there you just don’t know.”

Herar said anyone who is considering entering municipal politics should do their homework, because it’s not a two-day-a-month job.

“We’re busy pretty much every day,” he said, adding that attending council is one thing, but there are many other responsibilities.

Answering phone calls, returning emails, and talking to people about issues in their neighbourhood are all part of the job.

“Connecting with the community is the biggest, and best, part of the job,” Herar said.

Mark Davies tells a similar story about his introduction to local politics, noting that candidates, when they go into an election, are not aware of what is coming should they win.

“The biggest challenge, absolutely, is balancing work, life and council. The sheer amount of information that you have to absorb from day zero is astonishing,” Davies said.

He also said he gets a lot more attention in public.

“People recognize me a lot more … that has definitely changed… For someone who has always been a little more private, that has been an adjustment for me.”

There have been a few surprises for Davies, but he said they are positive ones.

“The first surprise is, post election, how quickly the public rallies around a new council. You get so much support, it’s like the election just disappears and the public is behind you 100 per cent. That was really surprising.”

Another surprise for Davies was discovering how collaborative and focused the new council is.

“The atmosphere is respectful and encouraging. Your opinions are absolutely sought after and encouraged.”

It’s been nothing but positive so far for Davies.

“It truly is an amazing thing to have the voters say, ‘We want you to represent us.’ You feel blessed.”

Jag Gill said the experience so far has been exactly what he expected.

“There was a strong learning curve, which I enjoy. If I’m not learning, personally, I don’t think I’m doing my job. I don’t want to take anything for granted so I want to put all my effort into it,” Gill said.

He does agree with his fellow councillors that there is a lot of reading involved.

“Anytime I’m reading an agenda, or I’m reading anything, I try to go to a local coffee shop. I try to make myself available to the public. Of course, more people are talking to me,” he said.

Often people will ask him questions that he then takes and asks at the council meeting on their behalf.

The only obstacle Gill sees is the many procedures that have to be followed.

“It doesn’t get done overnight. I guess the procedures have been put in place for a good reason, but it just slows down a lot of things that I would like to see done quicker,” Gill said.

Overall, he said it is an “awesome” experience and he has no regrets.

The one councillor who appears to have had the smoothest transition into his new role is Cal Crawford.

The long-time Mission resident and former realtor is used to the public eye and has served on countless committees and boards for non-profit organizations.

He said there have been few surprises so far.

“I think being on the periphery of council for many years, being involved in the community – and spending the last year before the election in the council chambers – I haven’t experienced a lot of surprises. I’m experiencing what I thought it would be,” Crawford said.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been hard work.

“I’ve certainly done a lot of reading. But I’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

Crawford said, overall, his life hasn’t really changed.

“I was used to long hours and decision-making. When you come from a real estate background and you’re dealing with folks and looking out for their best interests and making those heavy decisions, I think there is a lot of commonality there.”

Crawford credits the district staff for their hard work in helping the new council prepare for the coming four years.

“The administration, I think, did a fabulous job of preparing us with their orientation programs.”

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