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It’s the morning after the election and Cape Breton Regional Municipality mayor-elect Amanda McDougall has had little if any sleep.
But her voice clearly conveys her excitement as she talks about the future of the municipality she will lead over the next four years.
“I can’t wait to start work – I cannot wait to make it all official and get to work,” said McDougall, whose enthusiasm over the telephone certainly belied her tiredness.
After all, it was less than 24 hours since she was elected as the first female mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. It was still sinking in that she had defeated two-term incumbent Cecil Clarke. The fact that she was given a mandate to lead the CBRM for the next four years was still a dawning realization.
Surrounded by a small group of family members, friends and supporters, McDougall spent election day evening celebrating. The day after was all about taking a breath before turning her attention to the next four years.
Yet she was barely awake when the phone began ringing as she accepted calls from a number of municipal officials including CBRM chief administrative officer Marie Walsh, deputy CAO John MacKinnon and acting police Chief Robert Walsh.
But she still had plenty of energy to field a few questions about the future.
“What excites me most is what this whole new slate of council looks like and I want to bring the team together,” she said, in reference to the newly elected council that includes eight new faces in the chamber of 12 councillors.
“We are going to be in the council chamber working hard with staff over the next four years. There are tremendous things happening and progress taking place in the CBRM. We need to continue that momentum, but we also have an opportunity, a blank slate, with all of these new members to commit to one another and work together as a team while bringing the community into the decision-making process.”
McDougall says she is a firm believer that the decisions of today affect the citizens of tomorrow.
“There are lots of us here with small children at home as we rear the next generation,” said the expectant mother who is due to deliver in December.
“I am so uber-aware, and even more so because I am pregnant and I am in this role of having little people around me at all times, that I want to convey that in council we are not only paying attention to the opinions and concerns of our voters and taxpayers, this is about our next generation, this is about the children and the youth who are in the future going to feel and bear the brunt of the decisions we make now.
“We need to be exceptionally conscious of how our decisions will affect future generations. Are we making it easier for them? Are we leaving a good legacy? Are we actually taking their opinions into account about growing our communities?”
McDougall said she stands behind a platform centred on teamwork, consultation and transparency. Her key issues include finishing the CBRM charter and making the municipality more autonomous, tax and equalization reform, setting up free Wi-Fi in all of the CBRM’s historic downtowns, undertaking a comprehensive review of municipal bylaws and to provide an easy-to-understand annual report on road repair priorities.
“There is no way I can say that I could take every bit of my platform and make sure that every person on council adheres to what I want to do,” said McDougall, who is also a strong advocate of tackling climate change in the annual budget and in the municipal planning strategy.
“I want to make it very clear that I know I am one person that is part of a larger team. There is a wide range of experience both from their professions and life that is coming to the new council table. I am hopeful that my leadership and my experience working in the grassroots organization-based sector will be a facilitator of all of the strengths of our council.”
"We need to be exceptionally conscious of how our decisions will affect future generations. Are we making it easier for them? Are we leaving a good legacy? Are we actually taking their opinions into account about growing our communities?”
The mayor-elect went on to say that her volunteer experience, work in the non-profit sector and four years as District 8 councillor will all serve her well in her new role.
“I really chalk it up to working in the non-profit sector – it doesn’t matter what role or what title you have when you are in these grassroots organizations. Those job descriptions get left at the door and it’s all about achieving your goals and making sure that the deliverables are being met, and it’s all about being conscious how your work is impacting the community,” said McDougall.
“I do have a role, I know it’s a leadership role. I am hoping to show a different type of leadership that is really hands-on, standing beside people and never above them, and that’s how I developed throughout my career and I am excited to take that into my role as mayor.”
One of the new mayor’s first priorities will be to develop a flexible long-term plan that includes accountability to the public.
“We have to set our own course and, as I have said during my campaign, we need to have a plan going forward,” said McDougall.
“That doesn’t mean that we are limiting ourselves to just the items in that plan, but we need to set our goals and priorities for the next four years. That’s not just a fun exercise to do, it’s how we are going to increase and maintain transparency to the wider CBRM public.”
Along with permanent city hall staff, McDougall will preside over a council that has just four incumbents. Two of those, District 2’s Earlene MacMullin and District 4’s Steve Gillespie, are entering their second term, while Eldon MacDonald of District 5 was elected for the third consecutive time. In terms of service, District 10’s Darren Bruckschwaiger is council’s elder statesman.
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