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On the phone with political team-builder Marisa DeMarco, District 4

“It’s by building on active citizenship and community engagement that we're going to see things happen.”

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Even before she got involved in politics by working for a provincial MLA, Marisa DeMarco knew she wanted to help people. “I’ve always been very passionate about community development and bringing people together to make change,” says the candidate for Halifax council’s District 4 (Cole Harbour–Westphal) seat.

She's worked with women facing domestic violence and is co-founder of a not-for-profit business called ConneXions, which provides mobile and online services to youth. Through ConneXions she was also able to facilitate a small-business roundtable, where business owners and residents of the district were invited to address community business needs. DeMarco’s current job is constituency assistant for Tony Ince, the minister of African Nova Scotia Affairs, which includes reaching out to people who need the provincial government's assistance.

She sees running for council as a natural progression, allowing her to keep helping people, but now with a municipal focus. “Being able to work at this level is critical,” she says, “because I believe it's where all types of citizen engagement and community development really starts.”

DeMarco sees her strengths as a potential councillor lie not only in her deep knowledge of government through the work with Ince, but also her ability to provide outreach and build partnerships. As if to prove the point, she approaches campaign commitments differently than most other candidates, caring less about individual issues than she care about creating informed engagement with residents.

To be sure, there are things she would like to see happen in her district, such as better stormwater management, additional crosswalks and some new stoplights. And she wants work to continue along the lines developed by the HRM Housing Working Group Strategic Plan. But her approach is inherently collaborative. “What I want to do is to explain to people how I’m going to make those changes,” she says. “It starts with one step, and that is to create and implement tools of education relative to citizenship.”

These “tools of education” will allow citizens to become more engaged by being better informed about city projects. And if they are informed, they will also be able to better voice their own concerns.

“It's one thing to lead—it’s another to engage the people that are part of the solution,” says DeMarco. “It’s by building on active citizenship and community engagement that we're going to see things happen.”

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