Over the last few weeks I have had a few people approach me as to whether I would be willing to run for council. Before I started hosting Politically Speaking on RogersTV a few years ago, I wasn’t even sure I liked politics – or politicians for that matter. In the ensuing years I developed a firm respect for politicians at all levels of government. From our local representatives who have some of the greatest impact on our daily lives to our MPPs and MPs dealing with a split between their larger and local responsibilities (and their parties!).

“Will you run for municipal council?” A challenging question – and one that should not be answered until you are decided.  If you are experiencing these queries, there are a few things I think you may want to consider as you make your decision.

First and foremost, the best advice I have heard so far is – “identify why you would be running” – and whether the municipal level of government is actually responsible for that set of concerns and can have an impact. Healthcare is a (mostly) provincial  issue, water quality is municipal.  You can read up on Municipal Government here.

Also consider that you may have more freedom to lobby for change as a private citizen.

If you are looking to make a single change in your municipality – especially one that will directly benefit you or your business – council is probably not the way to go. One issue candidates don’t tend to get the notice or respect needed to win – and if they do, don’t have the motivation to continue. Especially after their issue is lost or won.

If you genuinely want to serve your community, love to discuss, learn and grow, feel that you are a better option than those already serving and want to be part of a team that creates solutions to today’s needs? Then it is time to explore the possibility!

A good place to start in making that decision is to take the online course provided by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

So you want to run for council – AMO online course

“Content was designed by current and retired members of council. People who just like you decided to run, and have the knowledge and first-hand experience of what challenges and opportunities exist in community leadership.”

Access the Course Catalog to Purchase (This is NOT an affiliate link and I receive no compensation should you choose to take the course.)

I found this course to be a quick exploration the role of council member in an Ontario Municipality. I would not feel equipped to launch my bid for election after taking this course but at $67 and 1 to 2 hours of your time it is still a good investment.

What it did well: It covered the basic logistics of how to put your name forward – the paperwork, fundraising legalities… well all of the legalities.

What it did even better: shared the realities of public service… be careful what you wish for. There was some strong advice on the difficulty of the job, it’s limitations, and liabilities. There is a significant time commitment to serving on council (reading, council meetings, committees and beyond), and no huge wage to go with it… lower than staff, and lower than you may realize!

What it did best: share ideas and advice from existing councillors… from the horse’s mouth if you will. For instance, surprises encountered, basic advice on how to prepare, and the observation that both you and your family may get flack and need a thick skin!

What it was missing: a good way to ask yourself if this is the right decision for you and if you are a good candidate for the job. There is no pre-set list of qualifications (if you met this imaginary list of qualifications, you would probably apply to be town staff – better pay, fewer public confrontations) to be on council. It is a commitment of governance in time, integrity, fairplay and courtesy in the face of irritation and frustration with occasional big or small wins for your team and your municipality.

It does not get into specifics of how to track your financials – this is a fear of many potential candidates but it need not be onerous if you use a system to track and stay on top of things – and there are resources for this.

Identify your Value and your Platform

What this course will not do is help you identify your value and your platform. It will not help you identify what to say – to your family, your supporters – your donors and volunteers, the community at the door or during all-candidate meetings.

  1. One of the biggest steps you can take as you work toward your own decision is to attend the information sessions at your municipality – Wednesday April 18 in Midland, Penetanguishene, Tiny and Tay at the NSSRC.
  2. Talk to existing council members and get their input and ask if they are willing to share their experiences.
  3. Running for election is a team sport. Get together with friends and acquaintances whose opinions and support you respect before you decide. Will they work with you – door-to-door, putting up signs (and taking them down), delivering flyers, hosting meet-and-greets and introducing you to influencers, fundraising, organizing, helping you build and practice your platform and speeches, preparing for interviews and meetings and getting PR?
  4. Need some outside support? Give me a call and we can chat to see if coaching, collaboration and public speaking training would be that extra boost you need to step forward in confidence.
  5. Interested in a free webinar on building a platform with impact? Just sign up on the page linked below…

Sound Bites are one technique in the PR Coaching Package for Politicians, Entrepreneurs and Executive DirectorsGet more free resources to power up your campaign:
video and workbook plus details on the
Campaign Coaching Package
click here.