Last Saturday night I was elected Mayor of Victoria. It didn’t take long to sink in. And, as the Times Colonist reported, I was already hard at work first thing Monday morning.

What has taken longer is for me to sit down and write this letter to you all, reflecting on the state of politics in our city and on how we won the election.

First, I want to thank everyone who came out to vote on November 15th. Whether you voted Helps or someone else, Victoria’s voter turnout increased by 41% over 2011. This means that over 7000 more people made their way to their local polling station to cast a vote. This is good for democracy.  Thanks for voting. And thanks for electing me as your mayor. It’s my honour and I look forward to building this city, with you, for the next four years.

What’s taken me a week to recover from is how we do politics, even at the local level. In the final days of the campaign there was an orchestrated attempt on social media to call my integrity into question. What strikes me are two things. First, how, even people who I consider colleagues and supporters seemed poised, sitting there and waiting to hit the ‘share’ button. Second, social media can be a powerful force for spreading positive messages and it can also be a dangerous force where people share and post stuff they’d never say if they were standing there looking you in the eye.  

So what? Get over it? You won! One of the things I’ll be thinking about for a long time is this: How can we have good government when the way we get there is so nasty? And how do we rebuild community after we are so divided from each other on the campaign trail?

Whether you voted for me, or not, whether you campaigned with me, or against me, I am your mayor and I’m committed to working with you. But in some cases, we’ve got some repair work to do. I think it’s healthy for politics and for community building to talk through the messiness of the campaign, to name the things that are usually left unsaid, and to come out the other side stronger. I look forward to these conversations.

So, how did we win the election? More powerful than the endorsement of one MP and two MLAs, more powerful than thousands of dollars of attack ads, more powerful than last minute ditch efforts to dig up dirt and smear my name (“Lisa Helps herself” traveled quickly through the social media sphere), more powerful than all of this, is people.

I attribute my win to the hard and dedicated work of Team Helps, which was over 200 strong by the end. But it was more than this. It was you. It was 9200 of you, many of you first-time voters who saw in me someone that would listen to you, someone who would stand beside you, someone who had a bit of a fresh perspective, an eye to the future, and an ear to the ground. It was people that helped me win this election, and it’s people that will help me run this city for the next four years.  

Stay connected here as we transition this website from campaign mode to mayor mode. Check back regularly and please keep those ideas, thoughts, concerns and aspirations coming my way to lisa@lisahelpsvictoria.ca or call me or text me at 250-661-2708.

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