It was the passing of the torch of sorts.
Outgoing mayor Naheed Nenshi in one chair, mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek in another.
“It was a great conversation about the things that we had worked on in our four years of serving together,” Gondek told Calgary Citizen in an interview the next day after her historic win from being elected as the city’s first female mayor the night before.
“He provided me with some understanding of what the transition would look like, from going from my council office to being mayor. And it was just a good chance to reflect on all the things that we need to keep doing moving forward.”
And moving forward is the first order of business for the incoming mayor, who will be working alongside 11 new faces on council, with only three incumbents returning to the job — though one of those, Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu, is marred in controversy.
Some might call it a steep learning curve, going from councillor’s chair to mayor’s office amid so many new faces on council, but Gondek prefers to call it a chance to bring in some fresh ideas.
“I’m choosing to look at it as an opportunity because we’ve gotten so many new people coming on board with a wide range of professional and community experience. I think it’s going to bring a refresh.”
She’s excited to work with her colleagues while discovering why they ran and how she can help them achieve their goals.
For Gondek, it’s all about Calgarians
Gondek is also most looking forward to working with the citizens of Calgary, especially after getting to know many of them over the last several months while campaigning.
“It was really interesting to be part of so many virtual coffee chats,” she explains, adding that while there were pandemic restrictions that made it harder to meet with people, they found virtual ways to connect.
“We didn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk to Calgarians. I was just completely overwhelmed with the number that we’re willing to take to technology and do Zoom calls.”
She noticed a recurring theme with the questions asked.
“People wanted to know how we are going to balance economic recovery with social recovery because the pandemic has taught us that we have to help people in positions of vulnerability,” Gondek says.
“There’s a lot of conversation around making sure that we’ve got strong support around access to housing, poverty reduction, availability of childcare, and creating a more accessible city. It was felt that once you look out for your people and you serve them well, you create a stronger labour force. And that’s really what drives the economy.”
The best piece of advice she is bringing into her role
“I would say that the best advice we can take is that Calgarians voted for something in the election; they voted for a vision that includes being resilient, economically, socially and environmentally.”
Gondek says that is what she promises to do during her tenure.
“And that we would do so by first coming to a place of balance and stability. They want us to function as a team, and pull in a common direction. So that’s what we need to deliver.”
The newly elected mayor is excited and optimistic that Calgary will once again be looked to as a city to invest in.
As the 37th person to be elected into the mayoral role, it’s not lost on Gondek that she is the first female mayor to be elected to Calgary council — and it just happened to fall on the country’s Persons Day.
October 18, 1929, was the day the historic decision to include women in the legal definition of “persons” was handed down by Canada’s highest court of appeal.
“It is pretty exciting. And I hope now that we can finally normalize the idea of women and people of colour being in leadership positions. It took a long time to get here. So let’s keep moving forward from here.”