This week, we’ve been posting excerpts from our first Mayoral Exit Interview, featuring City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto.
Part I covered his perception of the public’s judgement of his time in the Mayor’s seat (13 years, spanning the 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014 elections), and his achievements.
In Part II, Mussatto discussed do-overs, changes in the city during his tenure, and the challenges he believes the next Mayor will face.
Now, we conclude with Part III — on advice for this year’s candidates, what citizens need to know about civic governance, and his plans for the future.
What advice would you give to people running this fall?
I would say it’s really important to listen to everyone, and actively listen. Meaningful listening. But at the end of the day, you have to have a vision, and you have to be able to lead.
It’s not just following the loudest voice, or the squeakiest wheel. It’s actually more than that. It’s sometimes telling people what they don’t want to hear for the long-term benefit of everyone. And that’s hard, that’s what scares me. I don’t think we’re electing those kinds of people anymore. We’re electing populists, and populists are not good leaders. They just tell people what they want to hear.
We need people to say, “We’re going to continue to reduce our carbon footprint. We’re going to continue to be more cycle, pedestrian and transit friendly. We’re going to continue to densify, but when we do so we’re going to have affordable housing, we’re going to have a community that includes all.” And that’s a vision.
But that means ruffling some feathers. That means telling some people what they don’t want to hear.
Do you recall a similar example of political changeover in the past?
I don’t. I’m slightly worried about it. You always have to make tough decisions when you’re in council and in the mayor’s chair. I hope that people who are elected to follow are able to do that. The learning curve will be steep for them. Very steep.
I was blessed by being elected 25 years ago; we had a lot gentler learning curve. It’s a hugely different world than it was 25 years ago, and it’s harder for new elected officials. Now every council meeting there are people saying, “I’m going to throw you bums out of office — I can’t believe you’re allowing this to happen! This is tragic, this is bad.”
You’ve got to stand up and be firm and fair, and not mean to people. You have to be understanding and listen, but make those tough decisions.
What do citizens need to understand about the job of governing?
That we’re all in this together. People are elected to make the best decisions, not just to upset people but to show visions for now, and for future generations. I’m hoping that the citizens understand that the world is changing, and that we’re changing for the better. Not for the worse, but for the better, and that they should be proud of that.
So while it make take five or ten minutes longer to get over the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge because of the traffic, we’re actually making some very positive changes. I want citizens to get more involved in the community, to understand the complex challenges that we have, because when they do that, they almost always come to support you.
And while politicians travelling is always frowned upon, I think it’s critical that politicians look around the world, go and learn. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, a lot of places have done it. You go to Europe — everybody’s cycling, and the infrastructure’s amazing. I was in Amsterdam about two years ago. It was unbelievable, I was just blown away at the cycling infrastructure and the amount of people who cycled.
Will you stay involved in politics?
I certainly am going to be taking a breather, there’s no doubt about that. I need to try something a bit different.
I’m very blessed, I’ve been offered some job opportunities in the private sector, which I am considering. However, I have a passion for teaching as well, since I used to be a school teacher. So I wouldn’t mind getting back into teaching a little bit.
I’m still passionate about how cities are built, and how they run. I’m still living here in the City of North Van — I’ll live and die here — and I’ll be active using a lot of the amenities that we have, and be in support of future councils as much as I can. But am I going to be coming to council meetings? Absolutely not, I’m going to stay away. Let the new council make their decisions.
Do you say never — or never say never — when it comes to provincial or federal politics?
I’ve been asked to run for every party, both provincially and federally, but there’s nothing planned at all future-wise for me in the political realm. I need to recharge the batteries, because it’s 24/7, and leading can take a toll on you. So I need a break. A good, long break.
Who knows what will happen, maybe I’ll enjoy a different pace of life.
Caption this, if you dare. (Photos courtesy City of North Vancouver.)