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  • Ian McCormack

If I was a mayor

A few months ago, I posted some thoughts on what I would do if I was the premier of Alberta. Obviously, I’m not. I’m also not a mayor or reeve in this province, but I thought I’d take the same tack on how I’d act if I wanted to be a high functioning mayor or reeve. My goal here is to add something of value to the conversation.


These thoughts are based on what I’ve seen and experienced with many and varied chief elected officials:

  1. Be humble. I have only as many votes as the rest of my Council colleagues.

  2. Leverage the skills of my council colleagues. They represent the breadth and depth of the community. They have passion and they have skill.

  3. Separate personal and professional. Debate issues without denigrating individuals.

  4. Avoid playing ‘gotcha’ with my colleagues and staff. That ultimately helps nobody and erodes trust.

  5. Keep Council confidences. There is nothing that dissipates trust as quickly as sharing information that is supposed to be confidential.

  6. Don’t play favourites. Share information among all Council members.

  7. Don’t hold grudges. Once an issue is decided, it is Council’s decision, even if I didn’t support it.

  8. Think long-term - how my community can be better in a generation from now. Articulate that vision often and clearly.

  9. Focus on Council’s strategic plan and re-evaluate our priorities every year, knowing that the environment is always shifting.

  10. Stay out of the weeds. Council hired an expert manager. Let that person manage.

  11. Live the principle that information should be public unless there is a reason for it not to be – as opposed to releasing only what we absolutely must.

  12. Show an air of confidence in crisis. Citizens need to know someone they can have confidence in is in charge.

  13. Be a leader rather than just an authority figure.

  14. Understand that there are significant differences between a Chief Elected Official (CEO) and a Chief Executive Officer (also CEO).

  15. Take quiet time to reflect.

  16. I won’t let being the mayor go to my head.

  17. I’ll stay out of the echo chamber by getting advice even from those with whom I don’t agree.

  18. Admit mistakes, articulate next steps, and know the buck stops with me.

  19. Model skill-building on Council. Keep learning.

  20. I will not tolerate or excuse abuse of my colleagues or the town’s staff.

  21. I know the rules and I model the rules, both how to run a Council meeting and how to act as the chief elected official when out in the community.

  22. Meet people where they are, both physically and metaphorically. Know that many people are intimidated by the town office and by the office of the mayor.

  23. Demystify local government by writing, being seen in the community, inviting groups in, and taking Council on the road from time to time.

  24. Visibly hold other orders of government accountable. I solely represent the interest of citizens in my community even if that runs counter to federal or provincial parties I may support.

  25. Know that I must work with other municipal colleagues across the province to represent collective interests. I must stand with other municipalities even when I don’t benefit directly.



You can find me at ian@strategicsteps.ca. The company’s Twitter profile is @strategic_steps.

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