Miracle Mayor McCallion, age 90, of Mississauga, Canada
I love watching Mike Huckabee’s show on Fox News every weekend because he has some of the savviest guests. He had a truly amazing lady on his show this past week named Hazel McCallion. She recently turned 90 years old (on Valentine’s Day 2011) and she has been the mayor of Mississauga, Canada for 32 years.
Though a recent nonagenarian, she is as sharp as a tack, and not only has she been able to keep her city of over 750,000 inhabitants debt-free (one of the few cities in the world to do so), she has managed to keep $700 million in reserve.
She is one of the longest serving government officials, having been the mayor Mississauga since December of 1978 and outlasting eight prime ministers. During Hazel’s tenure as mayor, Mississauga has grown from a collection of rural communities into Canada’s sixth largest city. The land upon which the city of Mississauga is perched, was originally a wedding gift to Hazel and her husband from his parents.
When she was re-elected last October 2010, Hazel didn’t even have to campaign. She didn’t pass out any flyers or hold any signs. She also asks for no political donations and requests that would be donors give to charities instead. Though she had 16 opponents running against her, she managed to secure 76% of the vote.
When asked about her secrets of success, she mentioned the importance of having a good council and a good staff that work together well. She also mentioned that she had been in business for a number of years before she went into politics and that by operating her city like a business, she has been able to bring in many jobs and keep taxes down. In 1991, she also instituted the policy of making the city’s annual operating budget available to residents for scrutiny and input which undoubtedly scored points with her constituents.
Despite her advanced age and immense job responsibilities, she still does all her own housekeeping, grocery shopping, gardening and driving (her personalized license plate on her hybrid Chevy Malibu says MAYOR1). She attributes her high energy level to her Christian faith which has filled with intense drive and sense of purpose. She acknowledges that people in her position usually have other people doing things for them but she likes to be self-sufficient and she said housekeeping keeps one humble.
Her physical stamina is legendary. A typical day for Hazel includes a full day of meetings followed by a late afternoon media interview, then a speech given in the evening followed by a call-in cable TV show in which she shows no sign of fatigue and reveals an encyclopedia-like memory as she responds to callers’ grumblings and queries. She also travels around the work bringing business to Mississauga and advancing her charity Hazel’s Hope.
She enjoys her work immensely. When she lost her husband of 46 years, Sam, and father to her three children to pneumonia and Alzheimer in 1997, it was the mountain of responsibility piled on her desk in City Hall that helped her get through it.
During her first term as mayor, many people didn’t think she would last. But that changed in 1979 when she became a hero. A freight train carrying toxic gas exploded nearby and Hazel efficiently evacuated the more than 220,000 residents. Midway through the crisis, Hazel sprained her ankle and was seen in photos and TV hobbling about on crutches while accomplishing more than men half her age. From then on she was elevated to the status of a goddess/general.
The number of awards she has received would take an entire article alone to list. But one of the most noteworthy was being chosen first runner up in the 2005 World Mayor contest. She was beat out only by Dora Bakoyannis, the Mayor of Athens.
The winners of this yearly contest are chosen by submissions made online by individuals nominating their favorite mayors. 87,000 people from all across the world voted for and commented on their favorite mayors. In determining the winner, the strength of the comments was as important as the number of votes. Important determinants were whether the mayors had passionate support of their communities and had respect on the national and international stage.
Hazel was chosen as first runner up because, as Canada’s best known and probably its most successful mayor, she has made her city a model for exemplary management. Mississauga is considered the safest among the country’s big cities and, as mentioned previously, has remained debt-free. She has attained considerable popularity in the U. S., in addition to Canada, and to some extent also around the world.
Though her administration has been mostly scandal free, Hazel has been the subject of some controversy a couple times in her mayoral stint. Recently (2010), she has been accused of backroom negotiations in a condominium and four-star hotel development project in which her own son stood to make millions of dollars out of the deal. But her populace has so much faith in her that she still won reelection in the fall of the same year by a landslide. The results of the inquiry are due in June 2011.
Hazel never had the opportunity to go to college. After high school, she went to business secretarial school. Before entering politics in 1967, Hazel worked for an engineering and contracting firm for 19 years. After deciding to leave that position, she served as a member and chairman of the Streetsville planning board, and later as Streetsville deputy mayor and mayor before becoming mayor of Mississauga. Streetsville was one of the small towns that eventually merged to form Mississauga.
The media’s descriptions of her include comparisons with Margaret Thatcher’s style of leadership and the nickname of “Hurricane Hazel.” The nickname derives from her well-known spine of steel and tremendous stamina, the latter of which is the envy of many 20-something-year-olds.
She has also has many qualities which endear her to her
constituents, particularly her common touch. Mississaugans believe that Hazel will be mayor until
she is either invalid or in the grave. Two years ago it might have been all over when Hazel was hit by a truck and knocked to the ground. However, she got up without injury and the truck had to be repaired!
This dear little lady (she stands barely five feet tall) makes U. S. politicians seems like “children” in comparison. They could stand to pay some attention to her methodology and accomplishments.
You absolutely will be missing something if you don’t watch this adorable You Tube video about Hazel McCallion: