In 2012 I was closing in on my retirement, I requested a pre-retirement transition back to Alberta so that I could be close to my family.
When I arrived back in Alberta, I began to see politically that the same things I witnessed in Ottawa in terms of regressive governing was happening in Alberta. I was so frustrated as this did not support the people of the province. I joined my local NDP constituency association Lethbridge East and the federal association. I knew that complaining would not change things and I thought about what I could do to effect the positive change I was seeking.
Mark Sandilands, president of the Lethbridge federal association noticed my interest and action on local issues, one of which was fracking inside our city limits. He asked me if I would consider running for the Federal Riding for the NDP. I graciously declined because I had no intention of going back to Ottawa. I told him I was interested in politics but I felt I could do more good locally. Mark and I talked about municipal and provincial politics and many of the things that needed to be done. I talked it over with my family as I needed their support. I then asked the previous NDP candidate in Lethbridge East if he would be running again. When he said he didn't know, I immediately made the decision to run for nomination. A campaign needed to begin and it needed to begin right away. The federal campaign had begun and I was canvassing in the Lethbridge East area for our local NDP federal candidate, Cheryl Meheden. Rumors began to fly that an early provincial election may be called.
Our association executive met and organized a nomination meeting. I won the nomination and I focused on the campaign with our fantastic and truly committed team. I retired from the federal government effective Feb 14, 2015, and we began our intense campaign on Feb 15 right through Election Day May 5, 2015.
That successful campaign led to my being in the Alberta Legislature representing the constituents of Lethbridge East and representing all Albertans. When I was in the legislature and working in the community as an MLA, I realized how important it was to be laser-focused on each issue to do the work that had to be done. This allowed me to truly represent my constituents. Several times I have looked back at where that focus came from and I could easily trace it back to those days on the track running; a time when I did not hear anything but my heart beating and not see anything but 10 yards past the finish line - total focus on the goal.
The focus as a political leader was and still is, what is the end result for the constituent, and will it be positive. Will it make life better for Albertans. The question for me was, what do I need to do to make that happen?
This was and is what I want for my community and to achieve this is where I am focused. I believe that being involved in sport especially at the elite level is where I developed and honed my skills to focus on what needed to be done to achieve the target goal.
Every training session whether on the track or in the weight room had an objective. I had to build strength – to be faster out of the blocks. So If I had 3 sets of each exercise I had to work as hard on the last as I did on the first. When I practiced my starts I had to react instantaneously to the commands and the sound of the starting pistol. I had to focus to hear nothing but those. I had to build my endurance to improve my ability to run heats, semis, and finals possibly all in one day and to do each at the fastest speed I could run. I had to do that at every sprint practice and every run had to be the best/fastest I could run that day. When I practiced I heard nothing that was going on around me, I could feel my heart beating and my body moving but I didn’t even feel my feet on the track. I was 10 yards past the finish line.
Another question I had been asked was about nature vs nurture. I think nature played perhaps a bigger part in that I believe I had some natural talent, my body build was suited to be a sprinter. I could push my self and I could work hard.
But then was that a part of the nurture? Although my mom did not feel girls should be participating in sports she didn’t stop me and my dad encouraged me. She did attend my track meets, basketball, and fastball games and she volunteered to chaperone at a few of the out of town meets.
All of the things I did through which I learned to focus did put me on a path of leadership. Even though I had never thought of putting myself forward in politics when the need arose I put myself out there in 2014 to get ready for the May 2015 Alberta election and I will do so again for the next election in 2023. I have already begun to focus on campaigning.
I hope this part of my life story will encourage others to become involved with sports, learn to focus and become involved in making your community a better place to live for everyone.