Tell them not to forget to have fun.
That’s the advice former Ward 11 councillor Brian Pincott has for the city’s new council, which was officially sworn in on Monday at City Hall.
In total, there are 11 new faces on council (although two are former councillors returning), and three returning incumbents. Former Ward 3 councillor Jyoti Gondek is the city’s new mayor.
Pincott was elected to council in 2007 and was voted in again in 2010 and 2013 before moving on from the position in 2017. During his time on council, Pincott advocated for mental health, the arts — and for having fun.
“No matter what, you’ve got to have fun, you’ve got to enjoy the job,” he tells Calgary Citizen.
“It can be long, brutal, hard, and never-ending. And if you’re not having fun while you’re doing it, you have to ask yourself, ‘why are you there?’”
Pincott knows it could be a challenge to keep things light with the way politics has gone lately, but he hopes council can enjoy their time on the job.
“It can be very overwhelming. And I have heard from several councillors during the last term that it was not fun,” he says, adding he hopes this new look council can work better together.
“There are so many new people, so hopefully they’re able to go, ‘Okay, let’s do a reset on how we work together, on the kinds of things we’re talking about, and how we’re going to talk about them.’ When I look around the table, I see a lot of opportunity.”
Trial by fire
To anyone watching city council over the last decade, it’s been no secret that it was a very divisive, politically charged, and at times a tense environment.
But it doesn’t need to be that way, Pincott says.
“It’s going to be about the level of conversation.”
With so many new faces on council and a new mayor, it’s going to be a steep learning curve, but that’s to be expected, Pincott adds.
“It’s always trial by fire… they’ve gotta hit the ground running and there’s going to be a lot of information thrown at them right away. It’s not just the budget; it’s all of the committees and commissions,” he says.
“And where the hell is the bathroom.”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek agrees that it will be a learning curve for many on council, but she is looking at it with a glass-half-full mentality.
“I’m choosing to look at it as an opportunity,” she says.
“We’ve gotten so many new people coming on board with a wide range of professional and community experience,” she says.
“I think it’s gonna bring about a bit of a refresh.”
Last piece of advice
If there’s anything Pincott learned from his years on the job, it’s that you need to have one quality in particular.
He recalls being asked years ago what the number one quality that an elected official needs to have is. His answer: empathy.
“They have to keep in mind all the people that they don’t hear from. They’re going to hear from all kinds of people across the city who are going to say do this, don’t do this. But it is an incredibly small segment of the public that you hear from,” he explains.
“It is their job to make sure that they’re thinking about absolutely everybody, it is their job to make sure that they’re thinking about the people that they don’t hear from when they make decisions for the city.”
When asked if he misses working for city council, Pincott’s reply: No.
“I loved it to the very very last minute. I miss the people I miss working with the people in administration, but I do not miss it. As much as I loved it. And I truly loved it to the very last minute, but I do not miss it.”
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