Waterloo Mayor shares wisdom on campus

Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran spoke students last week at Laurier. (Photo by Heather Davidson)
Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran spoke students last week at Laurier. (Photo by Heather Davidson)

On Jan. 16, Brenda Halloran, mayor of the City of Waterloo, came to Wilfrid Laurier University to talk about her life and how she ended up where she is now.

Her talk was a Professional Development Speaker Event, one segment of a series of workshops being planned by ACCESS U, a student-run club at Laurier. The workshops aim to inspire students by inviting developing world leaders to share their words of wisdom.

Halloran’s talk focused on her past and the struggles she overcame, such as working three jobs as a single mother, an abusive relationship and never being taken seriously as a woman. In particular, her experience with buying a home that had been built atop contaminated land and refusing to move away while sticking to her morals and values fueled her drive for fairness.

“There are times when I thought, ‘why didn’t I just go away?’… but I couldn’t because it went against my values and how people should be treated by government,” said Halloran.

After years of litigation over her contaminated property, in May of 2006, Halloran officially declared that she would be running for mayor.

“I was always enraged by how I was treated and how my neighbours were treated by city hall … I fought the system for ten years. I had to get into the system and change it for people. Because what happened to me shouldn’t happen to other people,” said Halloran.

According to Sylvia Larke, co-president of ACCESS U, this was the mayor’s third time speaking at WLU.

“This is my third time hearing her speak and it’s still inspiring,” she said.

Although Halloran will not be running for another term, she explained that she will continue to make an impact on a number of topics such as economic development in Waterloo, technology for food and food security and will continue to advocate for women.

“I’ll continue to fight for people’s rights,” said Halloran.

Michelle Paonessa, general member of ACCESS U, found the talk inspiring.

“It shows that you can turn tragic things into something positive. And that your attitude with an issue leads to how you end up.”

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