Last month I marked one year as the mayor of Tofino and as the newest mayor in BC.
Last week, as part of a “Young Leaders Panel” at the Local Government Leadership Academy’s annual leadership forum, I stood in front of 160 local government politicians to reflect on my first on my first year in politics. I advocated for this panel discussion because I tho ught it was important for older and more experienced politicians to remember what it was like after just a year or two in office, and because I want to inspire more young(er) people to get involved in local government.
Together with another first-term mayor and a first-term councillor, we spent 90 minutes sharing with our audience the challenges we’ve faced, lessons learned, and successes achieved since taking office. I offered my oft-used analogy (appropriated from my Grade 7 teacher) that the last year has been like drinking water from a fire hose – the amount of information to take in from technical reports to personal opinions is nothing short of formidable.
It takes discipline to read and reread everything and it takes effort to truly listen to others, especially when you don’t agree with them. I’ve learned how important it is not to overreact or jump to conclusions but to think things through, try to see an issue from other perspectives, in fact to even seek out those different perspectives when they don’t spring easily to mind.
As for many others, the slow pace of local government has been frustrating. But after one year, I better understand why Rome wasn’t built in a day, and for many of our community’s big issues, a clear path forward cannot always be seen after just a few hours, days or even weeks of discussion.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received so far was from a much more experienced Vancouver Island mayor at the 2013 LGLA conference, when I was just three weeks on the job. “Take your job seriously,” he said (and I do), “but don’t take yourself too seriously.”
I think what he meant is that it’s important in any leadership role to have fun, to be yourself, and to “keep it real.” Spending time with my family and friends, staying healthy, and going on vacations are all just as important as going to meetings, reading reports, and talking to constituents.
It also reminds me that being in elected office is temporary. There was a “Before Being The Mayor” and there will be an “After Being the Mayor.”
I concluded by telling these 160 politicians that I wouldn’t trade this past year for anything – this amount of professional and personal development couldn’t be replaced by any training program or university course.
It’s been an incredible, exhausting, and thoroughly enjoyable year, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.
Josie Osborne is the Mayor of Tofino.