These days it seems everyone wants a piece of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Thousands tweet and Facebook message him every day. He's sure to be on stage at every important event or presentation in Calgary. Even other cities in Canada wish he was their mayor.
And why wouldn't you want to associate with him? It's clear he loves what he does. He really believes Calgary, his hometown, is an awesome city. In fact, he won't stop talking about it. Near and far, if you have time to lend an ear, he'll tell you what's great about Cowtown.
Nenshi's social media savvy may have been the secret to his success in the 2010 victory, but it's also gotten him in trouble. Some think he spends too much time on Twitter and not enough time running the city. He's been known to say insensitive things and has had to apologize.
However, his Twitter account, remains a direct line to the electorate; an entertaining mix of city news, personal anecdotes, re-tweets and self-deprecating humour. Through this account he'll share your lost dog announcement or send you a restaurant suggestion if you're near City Hall. He's tweeted from the back of a horse and while on a zip line. He likes social media and it shows.
Nenshi announced his plans to seek re-election last week (through social media, obviously), and we caught up with him at Calgary's City Hall the following day. Already in full-on candidate mode, he took some time to answer our 11 questions.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
"Living in a great city where everybody has the opportunity to succeed and people have smiles on their faces."
What is your greatest fear?
"That we lose in this city and in this country the thing that makes us great, which is that we share opportunity with everybody and we don't let politics get in the way of people's success."
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
"I am always late," (laughs), "and that I eat too much after midnight.
What is your greatest extravagance?
"Ah. I'm not very extravagant at all. These days? Probably colourful socks."
On what occasion do you lie?
"I'm a politician. I never lie" (everyone around Nenshi laughs, Nenshi smirks).
What is your biggest challenge as mayor of Calgary?
"It is working with my city council who are very independent and very smart to help them understand that I am always right" (laughs).
What is the one thing about Calgary municipal politics you would change?
"More people understanding that I am always right ... No, I would love it if we could find a way to get citizens even more engaged in the community than they are now."
When and where were you happiest?
"Right here, right now," he says, smiling, as he stands in the foyer at city hall. "I try to find happiness in everything I do, every day, and how can you not be happy living [in Calgary]?"
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
"I think that my greatest achievement in my job as mayor is that people are still as engaged and excited about the community and the future of the community as they were during the 2010 election."
Who are your heroes in real life?
"My mom and dad. My dad passed away this year and when I think about his life and the ordinary, yet extraordinary, things he did for his family and his community, despite some really tough circumstances, I can't help but be inspired by that."
How would you like to die?
"Surrounded by family."
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