'Diversity is important, so put your name on that ballot': Durrell bows out of UpTown
Melissa Durrell, one of just three female councillors in the City of Waterloo, will not be seeking a third term representing Uptown Waterloo this fall.
But she's keen to see who will take her place, and has been encouraging other women — and especially, women of colour — to step up.
"I'm still the youngest — if you can believe it, because I don't feel very young — woman elected to Waterloo council. That's pretty crazy. I was 36 when I got elected, that's not young.
"We need that diversity of ages and we need the diversity of culture and I think that's really important and we're just not seeing that at this time," Durrell told The Morning Edition's host Craig Norris on Tuesday.
None of the city councils in Kitchener, Waterloo or Cambridge have reached gender parity. Of the 28 elected representatives in those three cities, nine are women. The ratios are even lower in Waterloo Region's surrounding townships, said Durrell.
"There are some townships who have never had a woman on their council. Those voices need to be heard in our townships, and at the Region and at the municipal level."
Municipal politics a 'natural' first step
Durrell, who also helps run a campaign school for women looking to enter politics at the municipal level in Waterloo region, said in theory city council is the perfect first step for women interested in entering the political arena.
"It is accessible, there's no travel involved — that's what attracted me to the position," said Durrell. "So many women, when you look around at the neighbourhood associations, those are pretty much run by women. So to me, this is the natural step in."
'You just need to be organized'
"It's a four year job. You can't quit in the middle of it. And so to look down the barrel and say 'four more years' — that's a long time. And I don't know if I've got enough fire in my belly to last four more years.But I know someone else does."
And for women worried about a healthy work-life balance, Durrell says it is possible.
"You can actually sleep, work out and have a life, you just need to be organized."