New politicians adjusting to life on Maple Ridge council

When most people are putting their feet up on the weekend, the first-time politicians just elected to run Maple Ridge will be...

When most people are putting their feet up on the weekend, the first-time politicians just elected to run Maple Ridge will be hitting the books, burrowing through Byzantine bylaws and zoning out on zoning, and pondering projections and plans.

The key thing to keep in mind: Don’t try to figure it out all at once.

It’s going to take time for all the pieces to fall into place, says Coun. Bob Masse.

He went through the same crash course in municipal politics in 2011, when he was elected to council for the first time and said new councillors need a few months to get up to speed.

“Nothing prepares you for the job until you get in it,” said Masse, now in his second term.

Following Monday’s swearing in after the Nov. 15 election, councillors this week went through an orientation session and were given a thick manual that covered the basics of their duties as councillor.

On top of that, the official community plan and major documents, such as the transportation plan, the finance plan or parks and recreation master plan, all have to be reviewed.

The new councillors have to attend a three-day seminar in January in Richmond, put on by the Local Government and Leadership Academy.

Over the next few months, there will be sessions reviewing each department.

“The whole process will take several months,” said Ceri Marlo, manager of legislative services.

For Masse, the most difficult part of the new job though wasn’t the intricacies of bureaucracy.

It was just getting used to the idea of majority rules.

He’d become used to working on volunteer committees, where consensus was sought among like-minded people on issues.

But at the council table, once a vote passed or motion defeated, the issue was settled.

No more discussion.

“Once that is the decision, that’s the way it is.”

Masse said he’ll usually put about 35 hours week into the part-time job of municipal councillor. Only the mayor’s position is considered full time.

Masse will get up early in the morning, read reports and do his own research into issues that council is facing, such as homelessness.

The same goes for a couple hours every evening.

But he knows he’s got it easy compared to Mayor Nicole Read, who’s just taking the top job.

“Talk about a steep learning curve. There’s a position where the learning curve is huge.”

He expects the other two new councillors to learn quickly.

“I think both Tyler [Shymkiw] and Kiersten [Duncan] have a really good temperament and capacity to do the job well.”

Shymkiw is a graduate student in political science, already a veteran at running campaigns, and has already sat on the parks and leisure services board.

Duncan has been studying urban development at University of the Fraser Valley.

For Shymkiw, “I wouldn’t say the learning curve has been overwhelming.  I obviously have a very deep academic background looking at how government works; and I worked pretty hard to get up to speed with Maple Ridge specifically so that I could hit the ground running.”

Getting up to speed is “different for different councillors.” Some may have to read the Local Government Act or Community Charter,, which sets out the basics of local government.

Marlo said the biggest change for newly elected councillors is moving from private life into a high-profile, public life.