LONDON’S MAYOR : WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET
I constantly look for role models that I can use for my clients to emulate. The requirements are quite simple: a self made person who makes a difference to the people of London. The following is a column that I wrote for the Londoner.
Anne Marie De Cicco fit the mould that I was looking for. I called her office and she called back to book a time in her busy schedule to meet. Last Friday I made my way to City Hall and climbed the winding stair case to her office. Promptly at two Anne Marie met me in the outer office and shook my hand with a warm greeting introducing herself; “Hi I am Anne Marie”.
I had to ask, “what is a nice Italian girl doing in the Mayor’s office?” With a laugh she agreed to tell me of her journey to be mayor of The Forest City. Anne Marie is a first generation Canadian whose parents emigrated from Calabria Italy to live with family in London. Frank and Bettina were blue collar workers who laboured for 30 years working at two jobs to make ends meet. Older brothers Vince and Dominic welcomed into their midst a baby girl in 1965.
Anne Marie grew up in the Glen Cairn area attending St Sebastian
and Catholic Central High School. Her family ties along with a strong commitment to her church, St Mary’s, were pivotal in her life.
After graduating from high school she enrolled at Fanshawe College to pursue a practical course of studies in Broadcast Journalism. Thirty-five students began the program and eleven stalwarts persevered and graduated.. Gord Harris and Bob Collins were wonderful teachers who demanded the best from their students. In two years the graduates had to be able to survive in the real world of broadcasting.
Positions at C H Y R, Leamington and C J B K, BX93 Radio in London soon followed. Her beat just happened to be the City Hall.
At the ripe old age of 26 Anne Marie decided to take a run at politics representing Ward five as their councillor. Mom and Dad agreed to hand out brochures and put up hundred of signs to help their girl fight her first election. Working hard, knocking on thousands of doors paid off, losing was not a viable option. Friends, family along with passion and commitment works. In 1997 she ran city wide for the Board Of Control and became the Deputy Mayor of London.
In 2000 she decided to run for Mayor taking on seven male contenders and won handily. Not bad for a five foot four and ½ inch young women from Glen Cairn eh!
I asked Anne Marie what it was like being the Mayor of London. She works hard putting in up to sixty hours a week.
Strengths. She enjoys interacting with people and promoting London as a prosperous, vibrant community. People skills are her forte. The buck stops at her door and after lengthy consultations and deliberations she makes decisions.
Anne Marie admits to having at least two weaknesses: saying “No” is a big problem, her staff has input into helping her balance her busy calendar. She is by nature a very trusting person that has had to learn that, not everyone is up front, many have lots of personal agendas that are self indulging.
I enquired about her future goals: she plans on running in the next election to complete her two term mandate. She does not see politics as a long term career, no desire to enter provincial or federal politics. Marriage is a viable option: it has been challenging to find someone who is comfortable with the public side of her life. She has the perfect mate in mind: a warm caring man with strong convictions, confident with himself who is not easily intimidated. After her stint in public office Anne Marie is looking forward to being a good housewife and volunteering in her community.
At the end of our interview Anne Marie spoke compassionately about her parents humble beginnings. “My dad and mom came to Canada with nothing but their love and dedication to their family and new country”. Anne Marie has done them proud. She vows “ never to forget her roots.”
I left the meeting with a lot of respect for a woman who does not know the meaning of the word, “ can’t”. Hard work ,conviction, pride, challenging and self confidence define our mayor. What you see is what you get.
We are now in the year 2009 and there are many changes in the life of Anne Marie. She is married to a man with the surname Best who is the proprietor of a bar in downtown London. He is waiting trial for alcohol related driving offences.
In hindsight Anne Marie probably married in haste and now has to deal with the prospects of a public trial that will be front page fodder for the London Free Press.
There is a City of London election pending in the near future. Will the public judge Anne Marie on her accomplishments as Mayor or on the deeds of Mr Best?