October 22, 2013 10:35 pm
Updated: October 23, 2013 1:37 am

Young mayors elected in Alberta’s largest cities; is age just a number?

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EDMONTON – Leaders 41-years-old and under are now at the helm of Alberta’s two largest cities, as well as some smaller centres.

Calgary Mayor-Elect Naheed Nenshi is 41, while his Edmonton counterpart is 34-years-old.

Don Iveson will be the second youngest mayor in Edmonton’s history. The youngest – William Griesbach – was 28 when elected in 1906.

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Across Canada, there have been a handful of others  who made it to the mayor’s seat in their 20s.  But it was Clayton Smith who holds the record for becoming the youngest mayor in Alberta – he was just 19-years-old when he was elected to lead the hamlet of New Norway in the 90s.

That makes Red Deer’s 35-year-old Mayor-Elect, Tara Veer, almost seem like a veteran.

“Red Deer has an average age of 32, and I’m 35,” she said. “So I’m above the average age. And so I think it’s extremely exciting that we have a match for what our demographic is.”

Veer added that her nine years of experience from sitting on Council has put her in a unique position.

“I can bring the context and history and experience to the table, but because I’m relatively young there’s just new ideas, and energy and an enthusiasm; and that will hopefully serve our community well.

I also think that my age really factored in – I had a lot of interest from kids and youth throughout the campaign. And so if that inspires something in our young citizens, then I think that would be a great asset as well.”

She said a child as young as seven encouraged his parents to vote for her.

So are the younger leaders part of a trend? Chaldeans Mensah, a political scientist at MacEwan, believes there has been a “generational shift” in politics.

“We begin to see young people become active in the political sphere,” he explains, “and they have taken up leadership positions.”

Mensah thinks a potential drawback of this may be a lack of experience in dealing with the federal and provincial governments.

You can watch his full interview below:

Iveson doesn’t seem too worried, though.

“I think that there is now confidence in the general population that, you know, it’s ok to hand the reigns over to a next generation of leaders. But, you know, I am looking forward to working with anybody who represents people in Alberta – regardless of their background, regardless of their demographic.”

Another young candidate to win the mayoral vote was Morinville’s 33-year-old Lisa Holmes. On Wednesday, there will be a recount, though, due to how close the race was.

With files from Laurel Clark, Global News

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