Cheryll Watson’s Edmonton
Though she’s light on specifics, the mayoral candidate
says she wants to revive the city core
By Chris Ranta
Edmonton’s mayoral race may be young, but Cheryll Watson has been wasting no time in firing up her campaign.
Watson announced her run for mayor in October, making her one of six candidates to throw their hats in the ring, so far – along with Mike Nickel, Kim Kruschell, Diane Steele, Brian Gregg, and Michael Oshry. This is the first municipal election without Don Iveson since he was first elected mayor in 2013.
As with her rivals, Watson’s campaign is still in the early stages. As of now, her campaign website lists one major policy announcement, her promise to create an independent chief accountability officer position, who, as her platform states, would “rapidly vet and inform any motions or work directed by City Council up front of the work beginning.”
Watson says she will reveal her policies as they develop, noting that she wants to put forth the best ideas she can.
“Meaningful and impactful policy takes time and should be vetted by the people that it will most affect,” she says on her website. “In some cases, when it comes to homelessness for example, people’s lives are at risk.”
She says she also aims to focus on listening to citizens and their concerns throughout her campaign.
“We’re … looking to continue to engage Edmontonians in the co-creation of our future policies,” she told The Magpie in an email interview.
‘A prosperous and sustainable downtown core that offers a high quality of life
plays a significant role in the perceived quality and value of a city’
One such policy is specific to issues surrounding the downtown area, the details of which, she said, will be announced in the coming weeks. However, she does have plans to help the city’s core.
Watson comes from a business background. She managed IBM’s real estate assets through the Y2K scare and worked with the U.S. software company Intuit on “a ‘first of its kind in Edmonton’ Silicon Valley tech campus.” With that experience in mind, she said she plans to innovate downtown Edmonton into make it thrive again, especially in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
“A prosperous and sustainable downtown core that offers a high quality of life plays a significant role in the perceived quality and value of a city to those that have chosen to study, live and build a career here,” she told The Magpie.
“I believe that we need to deliberately designate our downtown core as a key area of focus and a means of ensuring the successful recovery of Edmonton as a whole.”
As for what makes her plans for downtown different from Iveson’s, she said it all has to do with her lived experience.
“I’ve worked downtown for 20-plus years and have had many conversations from startup entrepreneurs to CEOs of large organizations,” she said. “I understand the pain-points a bit differently than our current Mayor. I also come from a tech background and am used to working to find quick, agile solutions to barriers our small businesses are facing.”
She did, however, add that she respects the work Iveson has done so far, saying that his city plan “will continue to guide our path forward.”
However, she stressed that her approach will “ensure our downtown not only survives but thrives.”
It makes sense that Watson would want to focus her efforts downtown.
In addition to working in the core for more than two decades, she also has served the community in various ways. She is a member of Edmonton’s Downtown Recovery Task Force, which she describes as “a volunteer group of passionate city builders who are taking action to accelerate downtown Edmonton’s economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.
“In the short term, the DRTF is focused on helping to sustain existing downtown businesses and supporting a safe return to downtown,” she said. “With this work of the DRTF, I see a real opportunity for the city of Edmonton to deliberately commit to partnering with private and for purpose organizations that would come together to co-create, and lead more projects that would see a better downtown through our collective efforts.”
Her campaign website adds that she has also been involved with the Zebra Child Protection Centre, a downtown-based child-advocacy group that aims to “provide a collaborative response to child abuse through intervention, advocacy, and a continuum of support in a child-friendly environment.” She has also sat on the Edmonton Arts Council.
If you want to know more about Watson’s policies, you can follow them as they unfold on her campaign website here.