Seasoned councillors offer advice to newly elected

By Kevin Woodhouse

Perhaps the best compliment a sitting councillor can receive from his or her constituents during an election period is to be acclaimed. The confidence electors give to an acclaimed councillor lets them know that the work they have done in their last mandate was good enough to allow them to continue for another term.

The Suburban spoke recently to two West Island acclaimed councillors, Pointe Claire’s Aldo Iermieri, councillor for District 4 of Cedar Park Heights for the last 17 years and Dollard des Ormeaux’s Alex Bottausci, District 7 councillor, to ask them to offer some salient advice for first time politicians entering the municipal fray.

When asked how much reading is required of a sitting councillor, Iermieri said that, on average twice a month, “we receive a large envelope with two agendas, one for caucus and one for the public meeting: about 30 items with 30 documents to read. It takes approximately half a day to read and research if you want to be prepared for the meetings.”

“I recommend that one read the city and towns act to understand your legal role as councillor, and the fundamentals of what is a city’s obligations, “Bottausci said. The most reading that is required is at the beginning, when all cases are new and you need to familiarize yourself with them. Also, depending on the number of committees that you participate on, the more reading there is in order to educate yourself properly. Any newly elected councillor, especially those who have never been exposed to municipal affairs before, will most likely struggle in the beginning.”

Expected duties of a councillor, according to veteran Iermieri, are to “participate in discussions, always thinking and representing citizens. Attend other board meeting where you represent council. Keep a contact with the citizens you represent 24/7 and always answer their calls.”

For Bottausci, availability to constituents is key.

“Reply in an honest, respectful and timely manner to their concerns and issues. Be prepared for and attend meetings on a regular basis. Be informed, proactive and engaged in all debates. Attend community events and strive to develop a constructive dialogue with the various communities,” said the Dollard des Ormeaux councillor.

Iermieri and Bottausci also offered some ideas on how to succeed as a councillor with your constituents. “Don’t try to go at it alone,” Iermieri said. “Always say that you will work with council to change things and never promise more than what you are capable to deliver.”

“Gather all data and reflect objectively before reaching a decision, instead of reacting too quickly. Be an independent thinker and avoid herding behaviour. Treat every resident as you yourself would wish to be treated and use a common sense approach,” said Bottausci.

Finally, The Suburban asked both gentlemen what they like best about being able to serve the public as a member of their city’s administration.

The Pointe Claire veteran enjoys about being informed in “what’s happening in your community. When good things happen you feel good because you took part in the decision making and it feels good when citizens tell you that you are doing a good job!”

For Bottausci, “The ‘thank yous’ and appreciation received from residents, and also to look out on a park, road, etc. and know that you were part of its creation” are the aspects he likes the most in his role as councillor.

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