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Councillor Jyoti Gondek announces campaign for mayor of Calgary

Last Updated Jan 13, 2021 at 4:46 pm MDT

Ward 3 Councillor Jyoti Gondek listens during a presentation at the Calgary Police Commission on Tuesday, October 29, 2019. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — It was a busy day for campaign announcements in Calgary, with the mayoral field getting bigger and one more high profile name announcing her candidacy.

Ward 3 Councillor Jyoti Gondek said she will be making a run for the city’s top office, the tenth person to make such an announcement so far with the municipal election just over nine months away.

Gondek told 660 NEWS she spent a lot of time doing her homework over the past few years as a member of council.

“I’ve been asking some pretty basic but important questions. So in talking with my council colleagues and administration, when I’ve said why do we do things this way, could we do them better? And, if can do a better job of delivering service to Calgarians, what does that look like and who do we need to partner with?”

Gondek is a rookie councillor, winning a post in city hall in the 2017 vote by taking just under 42 per cent of ballots to capture Ward 3. If she wins the mayoral race, she would become the first female mayor in Calgary’s history.

Before entering politics, Gondek was the Director of the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, and was also a member of various community boards. This included the Urban Land Institute Alberta, Design Talks Institute and Parent Support Association.

Gondek was also awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Gondek said she first ran for council in 2017 because she was “frustrated” at the current state of affairs, and now she is hopeful to use her past experience and everything learned as a member of council over the past four years to be an effective mayor.

“I can tell you that it does take a bit of time to ramp up and understand systems, policies and procedures that are in place that sometimes prevent us from achieving our fullest potential,” Gondek said. “When I think about all of those things, that’s why I want to take on this role. I think I have a lot to offer here.”

On her past experience with various community organizations and boards, Gondek said she can harness these past relationships to help reach out with leaders around Calgary and spark some new growth.

No matter who wins the mayoral race on Oct. 18, they will have to tackle several major issues that have emerged in the city recently, including the ongoing development of the Green Line LRT, fears about rising property taxes, and addressing systemic racism.

Gondek said she is prepared to confront these issues, and spoke a bit about how to approach the provincial government on topics such as the Green Line.

“I’ve never been one to only listen to one side of an argument, I like to know the different positions people have so that I can make a solid decision that’s in the best interest of the people that I serve,” Gondek said. “I think we’ve lost the fine art of having a conversation and I think the pandemic has created a bigger wedge, and that’s because people aren’t able to sit down face to face and really hammer things out.”

Gondek said she likes to think of Calgarians as investors, and the job of a municipal government is to ensure everyone gets proper value out of their investment to live in the city.

She has also identified other big issues that need to be addressed within the city and to ensure growth amid an economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously the economy is the biggest issue,” she said. “We have to be in close contact with the real estate industry downtown, we need to talk to the leasing agents and the brokers to find out how would they be able to attract a tenant here. And then we’ve got to make sure that our regulations work in favour of inviting a diverse group of businesses to our city.”

Through all of this, Gondek lamented the fact the political world has become so polarized in the past few years and she is hoping to harness past experiences, such as meeting with different groups of people with different viewpoints, to close that divide.

“There is so much of an ideological pendulum swing, from left to right, this is black and this is white, you’re right and you’re wrong. I think people are tired of that,” she said. “I think people really just want to get to a point where we can right the ship and steer a course forward from a place of stability.”

Gondek said her decision to run for mayor has led to some interesting conversations with her family, but they are supportive. She added they have gotten used to the time commitment required to be a politician, and there should be a smoother transition should she succeed in this race.

Gondek is not the only current council member running for mayor, as Ward 11’s Jeromy Farkas is also making a run.

This also opens up two additional spots in council chambers with the first-time councillors unable to hold on to their ward seats.

So far two people, Brent Trenholm and Jasmine Mian, have declared their candidacy for Ward 3.

Also announcing their run for mayor on Wednesday was Zane Novak, president of ZKO Oilfield Industries and former president of the Kerby Centre in Calgary.

Previously, James Desautels, Brad Field, Emile Gabriel, Larry Heather, Kevin J. Johnston, Teddy Ogbonna, and Shaoli Wang have put their hat in the race for mayor.

However, Farkas and Field are the only candidates who have officially filed their nomination papers. Gondek said she will file her nomination papers on Tuesday.

Current Mayor Naheed Nenshi has not made an announcement whether or not he will run for a fourth term, as he told 660 NEWS in December that he has been procrastinating and still yet to make up his mind.

Gondek expects the race to be a very interesting one with such a varied field of candidates, and the COVID-19 pandemic adds extra challenges around how to engage with the public when we need to limit physical contact. Gondek is very active on social media and she believes that will be an advantage, and she is also looking for any other opportunity to help engage with voters.

But at this point, she doesn’t want to bore anybody with slogans before getting down to the important work.

“What I really want for Calgarians is to get to that place of stability and balance so that we can move forward together to seek out the opportunities and prosperity that we deserve.”