A leadership series aimed at educating potential municipal candidates is set to begin later this month.
The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Vancouver Island and OurNanaimo, a society calling for good governance, have come together and host a five-part Civic Leadership Speakers’ Series, with the first session beginning on April 24 at Beban Park.
Sydney Robertson, a spokeswoman for OurNanaimo, said the idea behind the speaker series is to educate individuals on the role and responsibilities of elected city councillors.
“This gives potential candidates the opportunity to really think about whether they want to do this,” she said. “Because I think a lot of people may be interested but it is hard to know whether it is right for you. It is a big commitment. It’s a very public commitment and it is a huge decision.”
Kim Smythe, president and chief executive officer for the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, said with council’s behavior over the last four years, the leadership series was needed to better educate the public about the fundamentals of local governance and the basic competencies needed for elected officials.
“We can try to educate the candidates so we have a better level of informed candidate running for office, so that they understand what the job is because if their only exposure of what council does is watching [council meetings] for the past four years, they have a rather unclear version,” he said. “It’s helping those who are interested in becoming candidates, perhaps, see where the boundaries of that job are.”
Guest speakers for the sessions include Carrie Chassels, associate vice-president of student affairs at Vancouver Island University; Patrick Ross, former vice-president of student services at Vancouver Island University; Brian Clemens, a former director of finance with the City of Nanaimo; Al Kenning, a former senior manager with the City of Nanaimo; and Gary Wiekum, a former instructor at the University of Lethbridge.
Following the April 24 session, there will be four optional sessions for individuals to attend, which will focus on the daily duties of an elected official, responsibilities of council members, communications and outreach and how effective leadership can enable a productive council.
With digital communications becoming an increasingly large part of daily life, Robertson said communication and outreach is the theme of one of the sessions because it’s important for potential candidates to understand what can and cannot be communicated to the public.
“We’ve had problems both ways and we really need our representatives to have some clarity on that, that there is information they can share with us and there is information they should not share with us,” she said.
Signing up does not mean an individual is committed to running for public office in the next election. Smythe, who is also one of the guest speakers, said the April 24 session is mandatory because it requires individuals to complete a self-assessment.
“Once you’ve completed the assessment you’ll have a better idea of whether or not you should even be attending the next four sessions or whether you should be thinking about running for council,” he said. “You don’t have to share that self-assessment with anybody but yourself. We’re not going to be ranking you. We won’t be saying you should vote for this person or you shouldn’t vote for that person. This is entirely for you to assess yourself.”
Robertson said there are lots of dedicated people in the community who want to see Nanaimo and its leadership improve. She said the while many have good intentions, being an elected official isn’t for everybody and the leadership series is designed to help those identify whether they believe they could be ready for public office.
“We believe that our city needs much better governance and nobody is going to hand it to us. We need to go out and get it. We need excellent candidates and we need voters to be well-informed,” she said. “We are really hoping that we can have some qualified, ethical, critically thinking councillors next time around.”
Sessions are only available to individuals who have never held public office before. The April 24 session costs $20 and the additional four sessions cost $100. Advance registration is required. For more information, follow this link.