The Importance of Voting Well

Our citizens know what progress feels like and I believe in my heart that they want more of it, for everyone.

The banker’s boxes are in my office.

I’m starting to pack up, and I can do so knowing that I kept my promises and did my best. From the first day of my term to my last, not a moment passed that I didn’t feel privileged to serve.

What will my next job be?

In the short term, it’s going to be rest and renewal. Beyond that, I know one thing for sure: I will be watching what our next council does. That’s because I, like every citizen of Saint John, have too much to lose to do otherwise.

For now, let’s focus on Monday.

On Monday, we all have one job.

Vote well.

Let me be clear: on Monday you shouldn’t simply vote — you must vote well. But how do you decide who will get your “x”?

Here’s what I hear some people saying:

  • I know their family.
  • They seem nice.
  • I like what they say on Twitter.
  • I sat on a volunteer board with them.
  • They’ve done the job before.

Are those really the metrics we should be using?

Here’s a different set of measures I urge you to consider.

Look for candidates who have the right motivation. Look to their platform or their bio for evidence. Why are they running? What do they hope to achieve?

Read between the lines. Can you hear hope and optimism in the words they use? Will they approach the City and its business with a glass-half-full mentality?

Look for candidates who understand the role of Council and the complexities of our issues, and have the ingenuity, creativity and intestinal fortitude to imagine a path forward.

If you don’t know the candidate, talk to people who do. Ask them; is the candidate a solution finder? Are they collaborative? Can they compromise?

Look for candidates who are not simply committed to advancing their own station in life, or the station of one group of people. Look for candidates who are committed to the greater good, and to a better future for our children and grandchildren, even if they haven’t yet been born.

Ask the candidate directly: can they stand firm when firmness is needed, and compromise when an agreement is required? Do they know which approach is appropriate, and in which circumstance?

We have a lot of choices, so please do your homework

By some amazing collection of circumstances, we have more than 50 candidates in Saint John’s municipal election. We are in the enviable but challenging position of having more credible candidates to choose from than we have seats around the table.

So do your homework. Dig deeper than you have before, and understand your choice more clearly. Put the needs of our City first.

Bottom line — you’re going to “hire” 10 councillors and one Mayor to represent your interests over the next four years. Over that period, you’re going to pay each councillor approximately $120,000, and you’ll pay your next Mayor $352,000. Those financial commitments should come with high expectations.

You should expect that they will do their homework and come prepared to every council meeting. You should expect they will engage with the community on important issues. You should expect that they will put their biases aside and do their utmost to move our City forward.

If you were hiring for any other $120,000 job, you wouldn’t just choose someone nice. You’d choose someone who is competent.

Let’s do the same for Saint John City Council.

Leaders to move us forward

This election is nothing short of a referendum on the massive and difficult changes we have engineered over the past five years.

Was all the struggle worth it?

If you think it was, then you need to vote accordingly because some candidates will move us forward from where we are now and some will allow us to slide backward, squandering what we have accomplished over the past five years.

Make no mistake, it will take tenacity, focus, and determination to build on what we have done. It will also take optimism, collaboration, and neighborliness.

We need a council who can be all those things and more.

Once elected, our new council must banish the idea of “good enough” and start swinging for the fences.

They must set direction, identify the desired outcomes, and then let staff do their work. They must work well together because disagreement obscures the art of the possible. They must challenge community leaders and organizations to help lead the way to a better future.

My advice to the next council has four parts.

1. Define success.
2. Measure progress.
3. Work the plan.
4. Maintain high standards.

If I had my way, our next council would continue to advocate hard for the municipal reforms we need from Fredericton. Our next and future councils would stick to the financial policies and plans we worked hard to establish, and they would act with a sense of urgency to propel us onto the global stage, leveraging community leaders and agencies like Envision Saint John, and get used to competing globally.

Our citizens know what progress feels like, and I believe in my heart that they want more of it, for everyone.

Let’s build on our momentum and create a city in which everyone can live, work, and play.

Vote well, Saint John!



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Don Darling

Don Darling

Former Mayor of Saint John, New Brunswick. 20+ years in construction industry leadership. Success is achieved by bringing people together. Let's #growsj!