Burlington Election 2014: About Marianne Meed Ward

I first ran for city council in 2006, after hearing from people on my street that they didn’t get good information from the city about decisions that affected them. If they found out at all, it was after the fact when the decision was made and nothing could be done.

“I can do something about that.”

As a professional print and broadcast journalist for over two decades, with clients including CBC radio & television, VisionTV, Toronto Sun, SunNewsNetwork, Ryerson University, Chatelaine, TVO and many more,  I thought – “I can do something about that!”

Marianne Meed Ward - Save our WaterfrontI wasn’t elected that time, but my passion for serving residents grew. In the next few years, I launched A Better Burlington website, putting my communications background to use researching and writing about issues in Burlington, and providing residents an opportunity to comment and see what your neighbours were saying.

A Better Burlington gave birth to Save Our Waterfront, a 2000-member city-wide movement focused on protecting our waterfront for public access and enjoyment. A dedicated group of residents from across the city continue to volunteer their time via the Burlington Waterfront Committee, building on the spirit of Save Our Waterfront and providing a citizen’s voice on waterfront access and protection.

“This isn’t a job; it’s a privilege and public service”

What inspired me to seek public office in the first place – I can do something about that! – continues to propel me forward as the City and Regional Councillor for Ward 2 since 2010. This isn’t a job; it’s a privilege to represent and serve the residents of Burlington. In my time on council, I’ve had the honour to meet and serve with many residents who also believe you “can do something about that” and volunteer your time to make Burlington better.

In these pages, you’ll read about the issues we face as a community, hits and misses from the last term of council, and my commitments for the road ahead.

“A new way to lead”

But you’ll find more – you’ll learn about a new way of governing, with integrity, leadership by example and service. Residents want to work with your elected leaders to build a better city. You want grassroots, not top down, leadership. You want elected officials to walk the talk – a sign of both commitment to the issues and personal integrity. You want leaders who can work with others to achieve shared goals, but are also courageous enough to stand up and speak out on issues they believe in, even if they are in the minority. If it’s the right thing to do, eventually the majority catches up, and the best leaders lead the way there. You want leaders who will put residents first, not our own agendas and entitlements. You want to be treated as a citizen, involved in your community, not just a taxpayer. You want us to lead by serving.

It’s the kind of leader I’m committed to being.

On the issues we face, I continue to believe “I can do something about that” and look forward to four more years of public service, working with you to make Burlington better.

Biography

My kids under a giant Sequoia

My kids under a giant Sequoia

I was born in Greeley, Colorado to an American Mom and Canadian Dad. Our family of six (two sisters and a brother) spent the early years of our lives driving the U.S. west coast, and living in various national parks where my Dad was a forest ranger. Last summer, my own family returned to some of these places. I was both inspired and humbled – the national parks, the redwood forests, the public monuments and historic buildings – the places I had once lived and visited as a child were there because citizens worked with their governments to preserve them for future generations. It reminded me of the power of collaboration – that great achievements happen when residents and elected representatives work together.

When we were school age, my parents moved our family to Ontario, where we lived in Toronto, then Kingston, then Ottawa. It was a proud day when I received my Canadian citizenship, and chose to make Canada my home.

When I was still in high school, I met my future husband, Pete, at a church youth group. We will celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary in October.

After high school, I spent a year studying religion at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, twin-city to my mom’s hometown of Minneapolis. I returned to Ottawa, where I earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University.  After graduation, I travelled throughout Europe for two  months with a friend.

Work brought Pete and me to Toronto, where I started my career as a  writer, then publisher at a national religious magazine. We married, bought our first house, and started our family.

After my daughter was born, I launched my communications business – Meed Ward Media – providing writing, editing, broadcasting, consulting and teaching services to a variety of clients across the country. That allowed me to choose my own hours, maintain my career and be at home with my daughter. Sales in my first year were higher than the salary from my full-time job at the magazine.

When I became pregnant again, with twins, we knew we wanted to raise our children outside the big city in mid-sized community.

The experience of having lived and travelled in so many great cities throughout Canada, the United States and Europe, helped shaped my views of what great cities are and can be. My husband has the added experience of having travelled to almost every continent and dozens of cities in the world as head of fundraising for World Vision Canada, the global relief and development organization.

In looking for a community to raise our family, we knew we wanted to be near the waterfront and close to conservation areas and hiking trails that we often visited when we lived in Toronto. We wanted good schools, community programs, and proximity to universities. We wanted to be close to nature, and also near urban amenities. We wanted a safe community, with lots of parks and public places. We wanted to live in a walkable neighbourhood, with access to good public transit. We wanted to be in a community small enough that people knew our name and greeted us on the street, and big enough to provide diverse opportunities to live, work and play.

We chose Burlington for all these reasons and more – the same reasons many of you choose to call Burlington home. Burlington delivered.

We moved to the Tyandaga neighbourhood of Burlington in 2000, and our twins were born a few months later at Joseph Brant Hospital.

Burlington residents - election 2014The day we moved in, our neighbour brought over a loaf of banana bread, and welcomed us to the community. Shortly after that, a group of moms started meeting regularly, eventually forming the 100+ strong “Moms in the ‘Hood”, both a social group and a civic group that got involved in community issues.

When my husband was hospitalized for 10 days with an unexpected and life-threatening illness, the “moms” dropped off food, did laundry and invited my children for play dates so I could be at the hospital. Mostly, they provided support and encouragement to get us through this difficult and frightening period.

This experience profoundly shaped my views of what strong communities can be, and the elements that bring people together.

In 2008 our family moved to Martha St. in downtown Burlington to enjoy a more walkable neighbourhood, closer to the waterfront. Once again, the day we arrived the neighbours welcomed us – this time with home-made chocolate chip cookies.

We have settled in, and call Burlington home: Miranda (now 15), Nicholas and Alexandra (now 13), our rabbit Cotton and our dog Boston. Burlington is everything we hoped it would be and is truly the best place to live, work and raise our family.

My passion for serving the residents of Burlington as city councillor is fuelled by wanting to give back to this city, and its people, who have given our family so much.

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