She’s not a Waterloo Region local. She’s called the area home for less than a decade. But since she moved here in 2005 to earn an ecology and environmental biology degree from the University of Waterloo, Anna Beard has been making an impact in her adopted home.
Graduating during a recession led Beard to move back home to Bracebridge, Ont. in 2010. “The whole time I was home there was nothing to do,” she said. And so, she started looking for ways to keep busy.
She began blogging about “anything and everything.” She just started writing, and realized she really liked it.
Keeping her blog fresh with content helped her to define what really interested her: regional politics.
“Politics has been an interest to me since I was little,” Beard, 26, said. “I’m serious when I say I consider Peter Mansbridge to be my crush.”
Beard was offered a job at the University of Waterloo and moved back to town in 2011.
Her burgeoning interest in municipal happenings bloomed when she returned to the region.
“When I moved back I realized there is more to this city than just north of Union,” Beard said, referring to the student tendency to fixate on the immediate area around Waterloo’s universities.
“The first time you go into downtown Kitchener with a blank perception is very refreshing; there’s so much happening down there now. It completely changes the ideas you have when you’re going to school,” Beard said. “Now I can’t imagine not spending time in Kitchener. I don’t think of Kitchener and Waterloo as two different cities; Kitchener-Waterloo is my home.”
“It’s a complete 180 from when I was in school.”
Beard’s exploration of the region led to her involvement in local non-profits and charities. She started volunteering with Sustainable Waterloo, which she calls the catalyst that introduced her to the Tannery, the Communitech Hub and the people making it a home.
She also began to cover arts and culture for The Cord Community, the monthly, region-wide edition of The Cord, Wilfrid Laurier University’s weekly newspaper. Writing for The Cord Community helped her “get involved and feel the beat of the cities.”
But Beard’s first love continues to be regional government.
“Your first regional council meeting that you go to, I was like, oh, there’s all these old men making all of these decisions,” Beard said. “And while I support a large amount of people on council currently, it lit a fire in me. Maybe I want to be one of those people.”
Beard is helping with a few local campaigns for the upcoming Oct. 27 municipal election and is passionate about issues near and dear to her, including housing, reliable transit and employment.
“We have to make sure that as we’re progressing, we aren’t losing complete touch with the fact that the cost of living in Waterloo Region is high. Diverse communities are always more enjoyable than just gentrified ones.”
Beard eventually sees herself working for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
“I love city government,” she said. “I love ground-up changes, and I want to be able to drive that a little more.
“You can’t bring a train with 1,000 people into the city unless you have a network to disperse those people,” she continued. “If we get two-way GO from Toronto? Awesome. But do we have a transit system here to support that? Not right now. We need to make sure we do. So to be able to really affect those decisions would be the most rewarding.”
Beard’s passion is contagious. She’s seen more and more of her friends become interested and involved with local politics as she’s shared her passion with them.
Her goal is to see more youth become involved – or at the very least, cast their ballots when they have the chance.
“I think that the biggest thing people our age have to understand is that they can make this city their own,” Beard says “The chance to affect change is what’s keeping me here.”
If you only do one thing this week, please vote in the municipal election on Monday, Oct. 27. Polls are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m…. The Cord Community has a handy-dandy cheat sheet of all candidates… I see and hear that… the Internet of Things Waterloo meetup is tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 22 at theRen@41 on King Street in downtown Kitchener. Starting at 7 p.m., the meetup is happening as part of the SMARTWEEK 2014: Global Community Events… @KWPokerChicks October tournament is on Thursday, Oct. 23 at EY at 515 Riverbend Dr. in Kitchener. Beginning at 7 p.m., the night features a how-to-play tutorial, and a strategy session with guest speaker Dave Caputo, CEO of Sandvine. The $15 fee includes your buy-in, snacks and drinks…. Finally, this Saturday, Oct. 25 may be the day for you to head down to THEMUSEUM… starting at 10 a.m., bring your family to the Family HackJam, where you can learn, create and play with digital media and technology. Tickets are $5 each and the event is BYOC (bring your own computer)… later in the evening, leave the kids at home and head back down to THEMUSEUM for 2001: A Space Odyssey Art & Music Experience. Part of the Christie entertainment series, the event is part film experience and part dance party.