I have lived in three ‘primary’ metropolitan areas in my life… Montreal, Tel-Aviv, and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Looking at the three main cities, none has had (of late) a stellar record of urban leadership. Montreal has been plagued with corruption, and Toronto… well, on this civic election day let’s not harp on the record of outgoing Mayor Ford.
And yet, when you go West (within the GTA) things are markedly different. I have had a very positive relationship with Oakville’s Mayor Rob Burton (who I hope will be re-elected today). However it is the mayor of Mississauga who is probably the most impressive. Mayor Hazel McCallion was elected in 1978, and has been re-elected every four years since… for those of you doing the math, that makes it thirty-six years straight. To put that in the perspective of my life, I started primary school the year she was elected.
The fact that she has been mayor for that long would be impressive under any conditions… but then if you take into account that she was fifty-eight years old when she was first elected, some simple math will let you understand just part of what makes her so impressive… at ninety-four years old she maintains a full schedule, is completely on the ball, and she has more influence in Mississauga than anyone I can think of.
In February I participated in the store opening of the Microsoft Store in Square One, what I understand to be the largest shopping mall in Ontario. She was there and helped to cut the ribbon, and she was sharp as a tack. I shared a few words with her, and was very impressed by my first encounter with this woman I had heard so much about. Because of some of the personal issues that I was having I was not entirely on the ball, and it was only later that I realized I had missed the opportunity to have my picture taken with her.
A few months ago, Mayor McCallion announced that she would not be running for re-election… not at all surprising considering her age, but a shock for Mississauga, many of whose residents have never known another mayor in their lifetime. I realized that ‘Okay, I had my chance and I missed it. Oh well.’
And then it happened… I got a call from the owner of NetSoft Communications, a technical training centre in Mississauga.
‘Mitch, I would like to invite you to speak at our Grand-Reopening Event. We have expanded our location, doubled in size, and we are holding an event to introduce the new facilities to our students and potential students, and to hand out awards for our best and brightest. The Mayor of Mississauga will be there as our honourary guest, and we would like you to speak about the future of virtualization.
I was excited for several reasons. Firstly it was an honour to be invited at all, let alone to deliver the keynote address. But to be on the same stage as Mayor McCallion for the second time… and the chance to remedy that oversight from earlier in the year… I just could not pass up the opportunity.
Madame Mayor is still sharp as a tack, and I had the opportunity to sit and speak with her candidly before the event. I asked her ‘Madame Mayor, you have been the Mayor of Mississauga since I was a little kid, and for more than a third of your lifetime… how does it feel knowing that on Monday the people of Mississauga will be choosing your replacement, and that you will effectively be unemployed next month?’
She laughed of course, and told me that she would not really be unemployed, and that she will still be working hard, looking out for the people of Mississauga.
When she took the microphone she talked about how what Canada and Ontario and Mississauga needs to compete in the global market to attract industry is not lower corporate taxes, it is trained talent, which is why schools like Netsoft are so important.
As a trainer I have always agreed that training and certifications are important to IT Pros. As a systems administrator I feel strongly about this because when I look to hire people I look for people who have the certifications, but behind that I look to the people who have the best training, because I know that there are some trainers who read slides and do little else. It is a pleasure to know that there are companies like Netsoft that vet their trainers properly and make sure they are not just ‘phoning it in.’ They hire trainers who know the subject matter, and are more engaged.
I want to wish Mayor McCallion the best in the next stage of her life – she refuses to call it retirement. I wish her luck in her future endeavours, and good luck to the next Mayor of Mississauga whom I refuse to call her replacement because nobody can replace her… they can just step in and do what they can to try to keep up.