AMHERST – Running for mayor or council in the fall of 2012 just got a little easier.
Workshops are being hosted by the province throughout the spring to teach people about politics on the municipal level.
"We want to create knowledgeable and engaged citizens and encourage people to run for office or serve on committees of council," said Jack Novack, professor, College of Continuing Education, Dalhousie University. "People thinking about running for council, working on an election campaign, becoming more involved in their community or those simply wanting to learn more about municipal government will find these workshops valuable and enjoyable."
Amherst’s longest-serving mayor, Jerry Hallee, didn’t attend a workshop before becoming mayor for 11 years, but he does have advice people thinking of entering municipal politics.
First, have vision for the town or a reason for entering politics.
“My platform was strictly economic growth. I wanted to create jobs,” said Hallee.
Second, talk to your boss.
“I had a full-time job when I became mayor just like our current mayor, Rob Small, has,” said Hallee. “I was running PolyCello at the time. I just covered my bases with my boss. I said, ‘look if I run for mayor and make it I’m going to take some of my time,’ and he agreed.
“I didn’t have that as a distraction,” he added. “Having the support of you’re boss means a lot to the public.”
Third, don’t listen to the naysayers.
“My biggest concern was that everybody told me I didn’t have a chance to win because I wasn’t a Canadian citizen,” said Hallee. “I had to become a Canadian citizen in order to run. People were laughing at me and saying, ‘look at the American running for mayor in Amherst.’”
Fourth, surround yourself with the right people.
“I had about six people who helped me in the campaign,” said Hallee. “Most people had hundreds of people but I had six very key people who told me what I should do and how I should do it, and I did. It paid off.
“On the night of the election after the polls closed I was sitting in my campaign headquarters with the six people I worked with and the closer it got to the end, when it was evident I was going to win, my campaign headquarters started to fill up with people. Then I realized, oh my god I won.
“I went home and took a shower and said, “What the hell did I get myself into. What do I do now?”
Hallee hadn’t been a councillor before becoming mayor and said he learned on the job.
“It takes a bit of guts and a bit of vision,” said Hallee. “I was never afraid to pick up the phone and call the president of General Motors and say why don’t you bring a plant here, which I have done, not with General Motors, but with car companies, and I was laughed out of the office, but you don’t know if you don’t try.”
He said being mayor requires a thick skin.
“When I was told we couldn’t do certain things I asked what can we do in its place,” he said. “You have to keep moving, you just can’t sit still because somebody knocks you down.
“You get up again and fight in a different direction and keep going.”
The spring series of workshops will each be between two and three hours long and leaders will be drawn from Dalhousie University’s College of Continuing Education, the Province of Nova Scotia as well as current and retired municipal councillors.
The workshops are free.
For more information, or to sign up for workshops, go to www.ns-municipal-elections.ca.
Dates and locations of the workshops will be posted at the website as soon as the information is available.