One of Canada’s most popular politicians is expected to spend the first part of the weekend in Penticton after delivering a talk Thursday night to peers on this side of the Rocky Mountains.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a telephone interview Thursday morning the theme of his keynote speech at the Southern Interior Local Government Association convention would be leadership during times of adversity.
“I don’t do speakers’ circuits, but after the flood (last year in southern Alberta), a number of municipalities in different parts of the country have asked for some best practices because Calgary’s management really worked well at that time, so I was happy to take this one on,” he said.
Nenshi took office in 2010 and was re-elected to a second term in October 2013 with 74 per cent of the popular vote, a tally that impressed some of his peers.
“To have somebody who’s a mayor of a major city who is actually popular with his constituents is unique,” said Helena Konanz, a Penticton city councillor who helped organize the four-day SILGA convention that concludes Friday.
Konanz said she was eager to hear Nenshi’s outlook on politics and governing, and how he keeps in touch with everyday issues while managing a big city.
“I think that once you start governing it would be easy to get detached from your constituents, and I think he’s able to stay connected to them,” she said. “I think that’s something we could all learn.”
Nenshi, who has 171,000 followers on Twitter and regularly interacts with people through social media, said he’s uncomfortable with celebrity status.
“It’s totally weird. I’m just a nerdy university professor who loves politics,” he said, adding though that he planned to discuss with SILGA delegates some insights he has gained into public relations.
“We have figured some things out in Calgary around civic engagement, around plugging into the community in a really authentic way, and I’m really happy to share that with anyone who’s interested in hearing it, but particularly people in local government.
“When you’re a city councillor in a smaller place, it can be a pretty thankless job and I think the rewards are extraordinary,” Nenshi said.
The mayor noted he was excited to see Penticton for the first time and hoped to take in some of the sights before heading back to Calgary on Saturday.