Scott McKeen reflects on his time as Ward 6 councillor
I was up on stage under hot lights, giving out awards, for what seemed like two hours. I began to sweat. Feel a bit dizzy. Then I thought: I might pass out, right here.
We rushed to my car after my duties concluded. My able assistant Rebecca took the wheel, while I nauseated in the passenger seat.
A few kilometres down the road is when it happened. Somehow, Rebecca got the car stopped, my seatbelt unbuckled and reached across to my door—at some risk to her ensemble—as I held my hands over my mouth in a futile attempt to … you know.
THERE WAS THE TIME I VOMITED VIOLENTLY AFTER A RUBBER- CHICKEN EVENT ON MY CITY COUNCIL CALENDAR.
We laugh about it now. We laughed about a lot of things in the Ward 6 office. Just as we grieved and raged and panicked and planned.
Constituents come in all shapes and personalities. The vast majority are kind, even under the stress of a waterline break or a late bus. But any group 80,000 or so will have its outliers.
The Ward 6 office staff took the brunt of it. The boss, Roxanne Piper, was with me from the start. Rebecca Visscher does communications and policy work. Sydney Gross worked with us part-time and we enjoyed her expertise in planning. Rachael Putt, now working in housing policy, taught me so much about the tragedies and travesties causing people to end up on the street. Amy McBain, now working in the private sector, was my first policy advisor and my campaign manager in the 2017 election. She ended up romantically partnered with the campaign manager from my 2013 campaign. They have a boy, ahem, they did NOT name Scott. Francis is a delight, nonetheless. Also joining us for a time were Kalie Stieda and Melissa Bui, who both went on to support Edmonton’s social service sector during the pandemic.
The two things I will always remember about being a city councillor are the stress and too-often brief human connections with humble people who imbue Edmonton with its sweetness and passion.
I was privileged to attend hundreds of events large and small. But it was often the small ones by community leagues, multicultural groups or social service organizations that swelled my heart.
So I felt a tremendous burden of responsibility and then struggled afterwards with doubts about my votes.
Yet I leave with pride over several things. The Ward 6 office and council made huge strides on homelessness, though the work is far from complete. We were able to get council’s near-unanimous support for a motion demanding action from Ottawa and the Kenney government on the overdose crisis. We also did a ton of stressful, strategic work in the background to ensure Downtown Edmonton will have a major park opening in about 2024.
I met so many talented artists and musicians. Sadly, we are brainwashed from birth to think culture created elsewhere and backed by corporate America must be better. It is not.
As for the stress of the job, I felt like I was always fighting my personality. I am a large-part shy. I am definitely sensitive. I’m prone to anxiety. Yet City Council is tasked with making huge decisions. An infill development in a mature neighbourhood seems as threatening to the community as running LRT from southeast Edmonton, through downtown, to the far west end.
OH, THERE’S MORE.
But I’m worried about boasting, humble-bragging or taking credit for work mostly done by the amazing civil service. I worry that might make you nauseated.