The making of a good mayor
As Parksville and Qualicum Beach residents prepare to vote in new mayors and councils, one question likely on many of their minds is: what makes a good mayor?
If you ask a former mayor of either community, you’ll get quite different answers, but there are some broad common themes.
Former Qualicum Beach mayor Art Skipsey sees the key to a successful mandate as having a vision and being able to work with other people.
“You have to bring people together,” Skipsey said. “Somehow, you have to engage people. There was a time in this community when everything that was built or done in the community was done by grassroots effort, not by the government.”
Skipsey stressed that a good mayor facilitates the voting process, but rarely takes part, voting on an issue only when absolutely necessary.
“When I was on council, in 13 years I only voted four times,” he said. “I let the council decide. It was only when there was a tie that I voted.”
If there was one piece of advice Skipsey could give the incoming mayor of the community, it would be to “sit down over dinner and say, ‘what can we do as a council for the community,’ Skipsey said. “Get them discussing things on a personal level and keep politics out of it.”
Former Parksville mayor Sandra Herle said a good mayor is someone who cares about all the residents in the community and who does their homework.
“If you meet those qualities you also need to be forthright with your council and look to the betterment of your community,” Herle said. “We had some challenging times when I was mayor and I was fortunate in that, with discussion and hard work we had a type of consensus — not all the time, but I don’t think anyone had any selfish benefit out of it.”
Herle’s advice for the incoming mayor is, above all, to listen.
“You have to listen, but not only to the loudest speakers,” she said. “There are always loud speakers, but there are far more people than those who are writing letters to the editor or speaking up at meetings. The good mayors are the ones who listen to everyone.”
Former Qualicum Beach mayor Jack Collins said the first thing to keep in mind is that a mayor shouldn’t run for money.
“You should be running for what you think you can do to help the town,” he said. “Don’t run for the money.”
Collins said co-operation is key on council, regardless of which position one holds.
“You need to co-operate on council. That’s the main issue,” he said. “Everybody needs to co-operate and listen. Sometimes there will be one or two people who are not along with the others, but you can’t keep having the same 3-2 split all the time, because that shows some are sticking together regardless of what the concern is.”
Collins’ advice to mayors is to follow the community plan.
“Carry on with what the town has laid out and let the public tell you what they want — but make sure it’s the majority of the public.”
For former Parksville mayor Ed Mayne, what’s crucial is simple integrity.
“I think the most important thing is integrity. I really do,” he said. “As well, you need to have a vision of where you are going. You have to know what you think is right for the city and work towards that constantly.”
Mayne said getting some form of consensus around the council table is key to getting things done.
“You have to listen to everybody and get everybody listening to everybody else,” he said. “You are a referee in those cases.”
Mayne’s one piece of advice to incoming mayors is simple.
“Make your decisions for the right reasons,” he said. “Don’t make them for political reasons.”
Having a clear vision is also important to former Parksville mayor Randy Longmuir.
“You need the ability to have a vision and the foresight and ability to put that into practice,” he said. “I also think that as mayor you need to have a very thick skin, which was my undoing.”
Longmuir said a good mayor is able to listen.
“I think the ability to listen to all sides of a volatile issue and still be able to come up with a sound and correct decision is important,” he said.
When asked if he had one piece of advice for incoming mayors, Longmuir demurred, but did offer his sincere best wishes.
“I wish them the best of luck in making the correct decisions that are going to benefit the community,” he said.