Soon after Marnie Brenner moved to Williams Lake from Saskatoon in 2000 she was inspired to run for city council.
“I was working at Deni House and I stopped a city councillor in the stairwell at the hospital and asked how I could be on city council,” Brenner said. “He looked at me and he said ‘you will never be on city council, you don’t know anybody.’”
Fast forward to the 2018 local government election and she was one of two women elected for city councillor and the first Indigenous woman elected.
“Someone came and asked me ‘how’s life in the chamber?’ and I said ‘that was a good slogan,’ and could be the title of a blog where I wrote about what I wish I knew, what I’m learning, but there is not a lot of gender balance in municipal politics,” Brenner said. “When you look at gender parody, only 18 per cent of mayor’s seats across Canada are occupied by a woman and only 28 per cent of city councillor seats are occupied by women.”
In Williams Lake Brenner is one of two women on city council, with Sheila Boehm also begin elected. The other four seats are filled by men.
Williams Lake has a population with 25 per cent First Nations people, Brenner added.
“Looking at that I think it’s important to empower other women by being a role model. If I can be on city council, other people can be on city council, and I can encourage all other First Nations women to consider running for city council to have a voice.”
Brenner is also a nurse and said the health care system is predominantly filled with women.
“I get excited about things and tend to be a more positive person and forget the negative things that have happened,” she added. “Being on city council is an exciting opportunity to be part of the change. I think people who are successful at what they do have different behaviours and dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose.”
Helping, encouraging, and building others gives her life purpose, she added.
“I like a leadership style that asks people how I can help them to have a great day so they can work better. They commit continually to bettering themselves.”
It has been a huge learning curve on city council and so far she is not afraid to ask tough questions.
“I come from a world of ‘let’s try small steps of change, let’s see where it goes, let’s make it better, let’s adjust it, let’s re-evaluate it.’ I think it is important to engage with people, be open, transparent and honest. I really struggle with organizations that aren’t. It’s difficult to trust that way.”
A self-professed “big dreamer,” Brenner said if someone tells her “no,” she is going to try and figure out how to make it happen.
“I also think it is important to make Williams Lake a fair, safe and inclusive city for all women. We need to address the crime stats, including violence against women.”