The biggest piece of advice four of the city's past and present female politicians could give to more than 40 women was to stay true to who they are if pursuing political office.
"To thine own self be true," said Coun. Carol Watamaniuk, one of four panellists who participated in a discussion about women in politics hosted by the city Wednesday night.
"Be confident about your decision to run," added Margaret Plain, who sat on council from 1986 to 2001 and also raised her children during husband Richard's first term as mayor from 1974 to 1977. "The election does not define you."
The panel was part of a larger effort by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to try and encourage more women to seek political office. According to the group's recent statistics, 23 per cent of Canadian municipal councils are comprised of women and 13.9 per cent of all Canadian mayors are women.
Lynda Moffat, who sat on council from 2001 to 2004, said she believed that a lack of education about the job and what is required of a councillor might keep more women away from considering it.
"I don't think there's a lot of information out there," she said after the discussion. "If they had more opportunities to learn about it, I think they would [run]."
Locally, at least one woman has sat on each council since 1974, when Myrna Fife was the first woman elected. Anita Ratchinsky, one of the panellists, remains the only woman elected mayor, a position she held for three terms starting in 1989.
Moffat, who also took a run at the mayor's chair in 2004, said part of getting elected is creating a brand around a candidate's name so residents remember what they stand for on election day.
"Your brand is your name and you need to get that out there," she said. "How many people out there know your name or anything about you when they hear your name? That's the first challenge."
One woman asked the panelists how their life skills helped them as municipal politicians. Ratchinsky said that, despite her past as a bank manager, she wasn't fully prepared for the job of councillor or mayor.
"I don't know that there's anything that can prepare you for municipal politics," she said. "The thing that helped me the most was my involvement in the community."
Cathy Heron, who announced her candidacy for council last week, said she was most concerned about the effect the job could have on her three children, including potential teasing and problems at school.
"Be very real with it," advised Plain, who said her own children experienced problems when her husband was mayor. "I think you need to talk to your children … encourage your children to talk to you."
Part-time to full-time?
All four speakers said their work on council often consumed more time than they originally thought. Between committee meetings, reading reports, public appearances and other duties, they all said that what is supposed to be a part-time job can turn full-time very quickly.
Mayor Nolan Crouse, who was part of the audience, later informed attendees that council is considering making the job full-time within the next three to six years. However, he added the decision was far from certain and would be for the next council to consider.
Although they all admitted there were challenges, the panelists said they were proud of the time they spent on council and felt the good moments far outweighed the bad.
"I drive around this community and I see what we left as a legacy," said Ratchinsky. "I've got a lot of good memories."