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Councillor exit interview: Jody Mitic discusses attending council after long absence and what’s next

Jody Mitic (centre) was elected councillor for Innes ward in 2014. He has been on leave from council for most of this year due to personal challenges and did not run for re-election. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson (left) and city manager Steve Kanellakos (right) recognized Mitic for his public service during the final city council meeting of the term on Nov. 28, 2018. Christopher Whan / Global News

Jody Mitic says attending the last council meeting of the term on Wednesday after a months-long leave of absence felt “awesome.”

The outgoing councillor for Innes Ward, who stepped away from his duties at Ottawa City Hall earlier this year due to personal challenges, made a somewhat surprise appearance in the council chambers that day, only announcing the day prior that he planned to attend.

Mitic, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, was elected to Ottawa city council in the 2014 municipal election. He announced back in March he had decided not to run for re-election in the east-end ward back in March, so he could spend more time with his family and prioritize his personal health.

After missing a number of meetings that spring, council approved a formal leave of absence for Mitic in June.

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READ MORE: Council approves leave of absence for Innes Ward Coun. Jody Mitic

Before municipal politics, Mitic was an army sniper who lost both his legs below the knees after stepping on an improvised explosive device – or IED – in Afghanistan in 2007.

He has published two books – one, a memoir, and the second, a collection of first-person accounts written by members of the Canadian military, titled Everyday Heroes. In his memoir, he discussed his struggles with depression and addiction since serving overseas.

In a radio interview in December last year, Mitic shared he had turned to alcohol after his body began rejecting his prosthetics.

Before his leave of absence, Mitic served as council’s sports commissioner and sat on three committees: transportation, environment, and community and protective services.

READ MORE: Council approves leave of absence for Innes Ward Coun. Jody Mitic

Along with the other six outgoing councillors, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson recognized Mitic for his public service during council’s last meeting of the term. Global News caught up with Mitic over the phone a couple days later on Friday.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Q: How did it feel being back in the council chambers on Wednesday?

A: It was awesome. I actually … the moment I tweeted I was going to go to the meeting was the moment I decided to go. And honestly, I kind of regretted it as soon as I sent it. If you don’t tell anyone you’re coming and you show up, it’s like a bonus, but if you tell everyone you’re coming and you don’t show up then it’s a big let down. So I wasn’t sure if my mental capacity was going to let me go. But you know, my own advice to most people over the years is … you decide how your day’s going to go. So I had to start listening to my own advice and by tweeting that. I made myself accountable.

Having Kelly there, my girlfriend, and my daughters and my mother, and Kelly’s daughter and her mother, my AA sponsor Jeff was there and all my colleagues … it was good. It was exactly what I needed and I’m glad I came.

Q: What would you identify as the issues or projects that you worked on that you’re most proud of?

A: Within Innes Ward itself, we’re a sleepy little hollow. Innes Ward was created in amalgamation and … there was only two active community associations, and that was Blackburn and Bradley Estates. So I asked the other community leaders if they could form their community associations so then we have five: Blackburn, Bradley Estates, ChateauNeuf, Chapel Hill North and Chapel Hill South now all have community associations. My community council … it helped me have more eyes on the ground. I was really proud that the community council came together and gave Innes Ward its little identity. Innes Ward itself needed to grow up and take a seat at the table. I’m proud of that.

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As sports commissioner, we had lots of great things but the UFC was one that I helped bring into the city quite a bit. As sports commissioner, I engaged them, I set up a lot of the meetings between the sporting groups and the company and stuff. So I was really happy to have that because UFC’s my favourite.

Q: In your remarks on Wednesday, you said you were Master Cpl. Mitic and then Coun. Mitic and now you’re looking forward to just being Mr. Mitic. What are you going to focus on in the months ahead? What’s next for you?

A: Well, soldier Mitic, he was a soldier and sniper and all that, and he had a job to do and he did it very well. And then unfortunately I can’t do that job anymore. Councillor Mitic, you know, it was new, it was exciting and it was service to my country which I wasn’t done [with]. Serving my country … you know, it was taken from me. So Mr. Mitic is just going to find out what it’s like to be a citizen.

I have lots of great friends, I have lots of great family, I have lots of great support and I’m going to focus on – I know it sounds corny – who I am. I’m actually looking forward to just having time to maybe write more… I’ve written about myself and I’ve helped write about others. I’d really like to get another volume of Everyday Heroes put out for the first responders. I’d like to start up my podcast again. And just raise my kids and have my dog and drive my pickup truck. That’s all I really want.

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I’m not going away, I still plan to be involved. I still want to be a community leader or at least a community activist in some way, but to do it in a positive way.