Harris hopes to boost the council in the race for mayor of the city
“I feel like I’m good at lifting people up and for those who might get elected, I believe I can help them shine where the best do,” Natalie Harris said of her bid to become the next mayor. from the city.
With a term under her belt as a city councilor, Natalie Harris has now thrown her hat in the mayoral race.
Harris won the Ward 6 race in 2018, beating his closest competitor by 105 votes. It was her first run for political office and the former paramedic said BarrieToday that while she was considering stepping away from the board altogether, she loves the city and not being a representative just didn’t feel right.
“I feel like I had a lot of momentum in the city with some projects and there was just something missing. I had to do more,” she said. “In the beginning, to be honest, I was going to walk away from the city council, as I had shared with everyone. I thought I would work better behind the scenes.
“But talking to my family, they suggested I run for mayor and that was the thing I had to do,” Harris added.
She says her first four years on council have been a great learning experience, both about how the city works and about herself.
“I came into this role as a retired paramedic who everyone wanted to see on her doorstep, as a town councilor who, although able to still use my experience of crisis management and navigating interpersonal relationships , was a woman who had to prove herself on a different level,” Harris said.
“I thought I had really tough skin,” she added. “I’ve been through a lot in my 40+ years on this planet, but I quickly realized that I needed to learn how to dramatically develop my crisis management and interpersonal skills, and the best way to do that. to do was to look into the difficulties and listen a lot more.
Harris says the current city council often seems divided during discussions and votes, and she believes she is the person who puts the right order on the table.
“One of the things I look for is to be a leader. I feel like I’m good at uplifting people and for those who might be elected, I believe I can help them shine where the best do it,” she said. “That’s the role of the mayor: to make sure that you really support and guide this whole team (councillors) and staff in the right direction. boats and help them navigate.
Harris said the mayor’s role is also to “properly chair meetings, be visible in the community, and advocate for what we need in Barrie,” which she says she is able to do.
As one of two women on the council, the other being Ann-Marie Kungl representing Ward 3, Harris says diversity is critical to the future of the city and politics in general.
“The diversity is huge and over the last few years I’ve been doing talks in schools etc. about women in politics trying to get women out and running,” Harris said. “If I can answer their questions, that’s why I’m here. I want to be able to assure them that there are so many opportunities if you step into this role.
Harris joined the council in October 2018 along with five other advisers for the first time. While half of the table being made up of new decision makers would have been tough enough, in just two and a half years the world would be gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing Barrie council to find new ways to serve voters. .
When asked what she considered her most difficult time on the council so far, Harris reflected on the lockdowns, saying it made in-person help impossible.
“It was a difficult time for the entire city council. Provincial decisions were often confused with municipal decisions, and it was difficult to tell residents that our voices could only relay their messages when it came to lockdown decisions,” she said.
“It was also difficult to translate the same emotion of importance through a computer screen while doing our work virtually,” Harris added. “We had to change the way the city operated on so many levels, but we adapted as a collective and learned how to make the most of a difficult time.
Harris also noted that the July 2021 tornado was very difficult, especially since she and her son were caught in the middle of it.
“Through this experience with Mother Nature, I was able to learn how to build safer homes and worked with our MPPs Andrea Khanjin and Doug Downey, city staff and experts from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. to improve the Ontario Building Code and advocate for safer buildings,” said Harris.
Asked about the main issues facing the city in the run-up to the October mayoral election, Harris didn’t hesitate in her response.
“Housing. Affordable housing for sure, but also achievable housing. Not much can be done around the table on house prices, the real estate market does what it wants,” she said. “What we can do is increase the stock and have a ripple effect that prices go down because we have more supply. But that means changing policy and doing things differently.
Harris said one thing to do was “not to listen to the voice of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)”.
“I know not everyone is going to like to hear this, but if we’re going to get to the level we need, as the province demands, we’re going to have to make some big changes,” she said.
Harris said Simcoe County’s contract to operate social services in Barrie is up for renewal soon. She looks forward to reassessing the value of this contract and considering how best to meet the growing needs of people requiring assistance with these services.
“With the growth of our aging population and the increase in precarious work, the need for social services will increase and the data clearly shows how badly our city needs things like affordable housing and improvements to our accommodation services. But that’s not my only goal,” she said.
“We also need to create progressive policies focused on data-driven economic development. This includes things like reviewing our service delivery framework to find further efficiencies from existing investments. I also recognize the value of working with neighboring municipalities to promote shared prosperity,” added Harris.
Employment sectors are changing and long-term sustainability and intergenerational equity must be at the heart of city policies, she said.
“It’s best done through engagement and inclusion of diverse groups and placing more value on their lived experiences,” Harris said.
The nomination period for the 2022 municipal election is open until Friday, August 19. Election day is October 24.