Rural Women Councillors in Ontario - 100 Days in Office
This episode is a conversation with four first-time rural women councilors, all serving in small communities across Ontario. They talk about what their experience has been both before the election, while they were campaigning and now 100 days into their term.
They talk about challenging stereotypes that rural folks may have about women in governance, the importance of clear communication, they talk about the privilege they have and what a privilege it still is to be able to run a campaign and that ALL of them would give up their seats to see more intersectional representation.
Kelsie Van Bellighem is a councilor in Kenora, Ontario
Born and raised in Kimberley BC, and a life-long seasonal resident of Lake of the Woods,Kelsiehas been a permanent resident in Kenora, ON since 2017 when she met her now husband. They have two young children and while at the tail end of her maternity leave with her second, she decided to run for council. As a person of privilege and ability she is aware of the need for diverse voices when it comes to governance and leadership. Similar to financial assets, “you don’t want all your eggs in one basket” and she ran on that platform during my candidacy. She is returning to work shortly, as a Member Advisor at the Credit Union in Kenora, and in her last term as Treasurer for the Women’s Shelter, Saakate House.
Lindsay Wilson is Deputy Mayor in Ingersoll, Ontario
Lindsay Wilsonhas spent the last decade working in rural community economic development. She often focuses on advocating for the full representation and participation of women in their communities. In 2021, she volunteered to launch Municipal Campaign School Oxford- a grassroots effort to support women running and winning their campaign. In 2022, she was elected as the Deputy Mayor of Ingersoll, the first woman to serve in the position.
Alysson Storey is a councilor in Chatham-Kent, Ontario
Born and raised in Chatham, Alysson returned to her hometown after working in the private and public sectors across Canada and Europe. A communications and strategic planning consultant, Alysson found herself thrust into an advocacy role almost overnight. Outraged by the deaths of a close friend and her young daughter in a preventable crossover collision on Highway 401, she founded Build the Barrier, a grassroots group of volunteers lobbying for improved safety standards on Highway 401 west of London, Ontario. This experience of public advocacy was an unexpectedly transformative one, and led to her running for Mayor of Chatham-Kent in 2018, where she placed second, and was successfully elected as Councillor in 2022.
Kate Leatherbarrow is a councilor in Woodstock, Ontario
Kateis the owner of the Early Bird Cafe in downtown Woodstock, a wife and a mom to four. She ran in the last municipal election, but she narrowly missed a council seat by just 59 votes.
Leatherbarrow, along with Lindsay Wilson founded the Municipal Campaign School of Oxford County, which encourages women and other diverse voices to become involved in local politics. Communication is number one on Kate’s agenda.