About Mayor Dave Ryan
Mayor Dave Ryan (@mayordaveryan) and his wife Anne have lived in Pickering since 1985, where they raised their two daughters and welcomed three granddaughters. Mayor Ryan was first elected to Pickering City Council in 1994. He retired from a 33- year career in general business and management at IBM when he was elected Mayor of Pickering in 2003.
Already the longest-serving Mayor in Pickering’s history, he was re-elected for a fifth consecutive term in 2018. Pickering is on the cusp of greatness and invested in several transformational
projects, including the new community of Seaton; Durham Live – a 200-acre entertainment and tourism district; and Pickering’s bold new vision for an urban, accessible, connected, walkable, and vibrant downtown.
Mayor Ryan has embedded sustainability and environmental stewardship into the culture and operations of his municipal corporation, and as such, Pickering has won national awards for its demonstrated leadership in conservation, sustainability, and engagement. In addition, he was previously recognized as ‘One of Canada’s Greenest Mayors’ by Alive Magazine.
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:02):
Mayor Dave Ryan, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show in a very full circle moment. Please start by introducing yourself.
Mayor Dave Ryan (00:11):
Well, Sam, thank you very much. It’s great for you to have me here today. And I am Dave, Ryan and I am the mayor of Pickering and looking very much forward to our conversation.
Sam Demma (00:21):
How did you get here? Did you grow up dreaming about being the mayor of a city and what was your path that, that brought you to where you are today?
Mayor Dave Ryan (00:30):
It was the furthest thing from my mind. I never, I, I, I’ve always been interested in politics as, as a citizen and, and our family. We were all raised to understand that we have, have a responsibility to pay attention to our governments, the various levels, and to participate as, as a as a voter. And that was pretty much my involvement. We moved to Pickering in 1985 to a brand new subdivision, as many of the people watching this I’m sure have had experience. And you know, there’s the usual growing pains that occur in a new new area. And we created a community association. I was asked to sit on the executive and eventually became the, the chair of the association. And it was through that involvement, not only in our community, but I got to know the, of the day and got involved from the community association in various other issues that were occurring around the city.
Mayor Dave Ryan (01:31):
And my community eventually came to me and asked me to the Stanford Stanford office. I was resistant again. I wasn’t anything that I had ever, ever contemplated. Wasn’t certainly part of my life plan in any way. And the upshot of all of that was I, I, I said, yes and I was first elected in 94. And back then we had three year terms. I served three terms as the local counselor here in ward one in 2003, the then mayor Wayne Arthurs who had been mayor for quite a number of years decided that he would like to take a shot at provincial politics. And he asked me if I would put my name forward for the Mari, if he were successful. And based on the experience that I had had as the counselor I thought that there was a job that I could do and would enjoy and could bring something to the office. So in 2003, I ran successfully and I am now in my fifth term as as the mayor Pickering.
Sam Demma (02:41):
Mayor Dave Ryan (02:43):
Sam Demma (02:44):
And did your interest and involvement in politics begin while you were still at IBM? Tell me a little bit about that journey as well.
Mayor Dave Ryan (02:53):
Well, to say, I, you know, you’re right as the as the local counselor for the first three terms of, of my elected life I was working fulltime at IBM. This city councilors in Pickering are considered part-time nice. And so I had this full-time job and, and the, and the council job as well. So they ran in parallel and I, I think, you know, where they come together is I brought that corporate experience and, and that corporate lens to a lot of what were, was going on within the municipality and, and how to get things done corporate the corporate world and the political world are, are very different in many aspects. But there are similarities and I was able to bring that to bear. So the there, it was a happy marriage you will, of, of life experience.
Sam Demma (03:42):
Was IBM in the plans. Tell me a little bit about your experience working there. I know you had a, a long career at IBM as well.
Mayor Dave Ryan (03:48):
Well, I, I went into IBM very early. I was there for thirties three years and I had a you know, the old joke about IBM is that it stands for I’ve been moved. So we had an, I had a number of roles. So with, within that 33 year timeframe, I spent most of my my career within what is today known as logistics back then, it was known as the distribution function, in fact, managed an import operation for IBM for a number of years. I’ve had an office out at the Toronto international airport now Pearson. And so I mean, I spent time in, in procurement. I spent time in computer operations. I spent time in some system development not in the technical sense, but from the user side of the, of the equation bringing and doing testing. So a lot of project management was involved from there. I had to my career in in the, the HR or organization. So it was a long career with a lot of different experiences. It’s a wonderful place to work and a great, great place to learn and grow.
Sam Demma (04:56):
When you think back to the transition fully into, to politics as well. Do you have any mentors or people that tap you on the shoulder that helped you and supported you and what did they do for you that made a big, a big difference or impact?
Mayor Dave Ryan (05:15):
Well, I, I think I would have to give the, in terms of mentorship, I I’d have to certainly acknowledge of the previous mayor Wayne Arthurs, who was a, a terrific help to me as I entered in politics and, and helped me learn the ropes if you will. And he and I had actually worked together as when I was on the community association before I ran, as I said, you get involved in a number of issues. I mentioned that I had been in procurement at IBM and the, you know, my conversations with him, he was having an issue with back then when the city of Pickering, then the town of Pickering managed own waste management waste collection. And so on before it became a regional responsibility was having some difficulty with some contracts at the time. And he asked me if I could get involved from a community perspective.
Mayor Dave Ryan (06:06):
And we worked together on that. And so things kind of came together and it was nice to have someone who was experienced and, and committed as he was to work with. And when I went into the mayor’s office, I was very fortunate to have a, another strong, friendly relationship with the then regional chair of Roger Anderson, who unfortunately has since passed away. But again, a gentleman who is very dedicated to his job, to his role as, as the regional chair and a very as student politician. So I was able to learn a lot working with him as well and appreciative very much both of their support and, you know Wayne Arthurs is now retired. But I still pick up the phone and called him from time to time and and ask him for a little advice.
Sam Demma (06:52):
That’s amazing. You’ve been surrounded by what sounds like some amazing leaders, and you’ve been in leadership positions yourself. What do you think makes for a strong leader and what is some advice you could provide to other leaders looking to lead as best as they possibly can?
Mayor Dave Ryan (07:12):
Well, I think the first thing you have to acknowledge is you don’t know it all. Yeah. And you know, you have to be willing to to ask questions, to admit that, that you don’t know and, and to seek advice build a base of people around you that, that you can trust that have varied experiences and opinions. You know, if there there’s a quote that goes if everybody here is thinking the same thing, then one of us isn’t thinking. And and I, I, I, I adhere to that very, very strongly. So I’ve always strived to have people around me that as I say, I feel I can trust and have those life experiences and, and, and a knowledge base that, that you can draw on. I think the next thing you need to do is once you have satisfied yourself that you you’re making the right decision and going in the right direction you, you do your best to coalesce that, that thinking around, around that idea and then to move forward and to, to move forward with a degree of confidence and at the same time continue to listen and be willing to adjust.
Mayor Dave Ryan (08:17):
And I guess the bottom line is be honest and, and be willing to make a mistake and admit the mistake, learn from the mistake and move on.
Sam Demma (08:32):
That’s some great advice. You, you mentioned a quote, which was awesome as well. What resources have been helpful for you and your journey in politics, but generally in life as well, you’re sitting in front of a wall of what looks like a beautiful library.
Mayor Dave Ryan (08:51):
Well, I, I guess you’d call it eclectic. I, I read a lot of history. I enjoy, I enjoy history and, and I, I learn from it or try to learn from it. As I say you know, make mistakes and be willing to learn from them. Well, you can also learn from other people’s mistakes. So I, I find reading history both, both enjoyable and, and very much a learning experience. There’s a number of resource books up here, but you know, again, it’s that, it’s that willingness to learn and, and to seek out learning opportunities. And it’s not necessarily all from a textbook, although they’re very, very important, and I encourage you know, everyone to, to advance their education to their fullest ability. But you, you need, you need to have a broader scope. And so you, you learn from, you learn from life, you learn from others experience and, and you learn from the resource materials that are available to you.
Sam Demma (09:45):
When you think about your career in politics, what are some changes or some creations that have come to life in the city of pick that make you extremely proud? Not only because of yourself, but also the counselors and the staff who all help bring these ideas to life.
Mayor Dave Ryan (10:05):
I think the first thing I wanna acknowledge them is that, you know, everything that happens in the municipality happens not because of one person, but because of, you know, a, a broad base of people, it, it takes, it takes politicians. Yes, it takes a strong staff that’s supportive and, and, and working in the same direction. And it takes a community as a whole to get behind ideas and, and understand that not everybody in the community thinks that a particular ideas is a good one. There’s always controversy. The first thing you learn in politics is you’re not gonna make everybody happy. And that’s a given the but you need to do is, is to find that that middle ground, if you will, that, that will make people ultimately happy that people can eventually see the benefit of the direction that, that you’re moving in.
Mayor Dave Ryan (10:55):
And that, that that’s often very difficult. And one of the things you, first things you learn in politics is that you have to have a thick skin. You have to be willing, you have to be willing to take the hits. Yeah. And you know, and I I’ve, I’ve often said as well that you know, using the mayors, the example and, and specifically to your question, what are the things that your proud of, but, well, you know, as the mayor you share all the good things and you take responsibility for the bad things. Ah, and so, you know, what are the things that are happening in the city that I, I think the way the city has, has grown it’s, it’s evolved. I mean, it’s not that long ago in reality may seem like a long time to some of your listeners, but you know, 50 years is not all that long.
Mayor Dave Ryan (11:43):
And if you go back 50 years ago in, in the now city of Pickering, the township of Pickering was a population, almost 16,000 people. Today we’re a hundred thousand people, you know, in the next 25 years, we are gonna be well over 200,000 people. And that mirrors the growth that is occurring here right across Durham region. So which today is a population of about 650,000. That’s gonna more than double in the same timeframe. So we’re in a huge growth period. We’ve experienced some significant growth already and, and seeing how the city has, has embraced that growth coalesced around it. And some of the improvements that we’ve seen with it. And, and the one that stands out, I guess, as a if you will, it’s, it’s kind of iconic to, to that to that growth is the pedestrian bridge across the 4 0 1 that connects the go station to what is emerging as our downtown core. And you know, that’s, it’s symbolic. And, and I said iconic and, and, you know, the fact that it is the longest enclosed pedestrian bridge in the world, and it’s actually made the, the Guinness book of records, I think, wow, it really is a thing that stands out. And that’s just kind of a fun fact. But I think a, again, it’s symbolic of the of what is happening in our municipality has happened. And the future that that is in front of us,
Sam Demma (13:06):
You mentioned as the mayor, you share the good stuff, take responsibility for the bad stuff. And I would argue that it’s very similar in education with the role of a principal who shares the good news and takes responsibility for the bad stuff in your experience. How have you dealt with those difficult situations when you can’t please, everybody, something happens and there might be a little bit of a challenge. How do you personally deal with it so that, you know, even though everyone’s not happy, you’re mentally at peace with it all.
Mayor Dave Ryan (13:42):
Well, I’d love to sit here and tell you that you know, I just smile and carry on it’s, it’s not the reality. Yeah. It, it, it gets tough. It, it, it, it really does. I mean, you know as I said earlier, you, you have to have some confidence in the decisions that you’re making. Do your research, make the best decision you can and implement it in the best way that you can. But at the same time the, the cognizant of, of the comment be cognizant of what is on full holding and make adjustments if necessary. So all of that, but, you know, at the ultimately what you need to do, what is help other people understand tho those people that are particularly unhappy, if you will, with with what is going on to help them to the best of your ability, understand, and the reasons why and they still may not agree, but I think when people understand reason that it, it makes the discussion less confrontational and, and helps people move forward with, with the decision even though they may not be fully supportive of it.
Sam Demma (14:57):
Understood. You’ve always also been a huge supporter, especially in Pickering of education. Why do you think education is so important.
Mayor Dave Ryan (15:11):
As, as we’ve been discussing? I mean, you know, you can’t make decisions with a never mind vision without, without a basis of knowledge with without experience. So it’s extremely important that we find ways to not only gather information, but new ways to process it ways, ways to understand it, and then ultimately apply it. So it’s not just about gaining knowledge, it’s about gaining a, a thought process and the ability to, to analyze information and, and apply it in specific situations and, and, you know, to if you will N through that with, with your own life experience and, and, and values.
Sam Demma (15:57):
Awesome. And I, I asked you this before we started recording, but what is one thing you’re looking most forward to this coming year in 2022?
Mayor Dave Ryan (16:06):
Well, I think this year we are, we are going to see the final piece put in place to allow the city centered development to, to proceed with, with some surety. So the city of Pickering has never had a downtown. I mean, we, we grew up, as I said from essentially a, a rural farming community became a cottage community. And here we are today, the city of Pickering and we, and we’re right next door to a mega metropolis. I mean, you’ve, you’ve got three and a half million people in Toronto, which is the cultural and economic center of Ontario, if not Canada. So you, you know, that growth is, is going to occur almost organically and, and not to have had our own city center, our, our focus of development, a focus of our own cultural identity has been a huge vacuum, I think.
Mayor Dave Ryan (16:57):
And so we are now at the point, we we have the space, we have the partners we have the vision we have the basis with the new super seniors and, and and new center a new state of the art 40,000 square foot library and a a performing arts center that is going to form the basis and the, and the center of an emerging downtown. And of course with that, we’ll come commercial, retail, and significant residential in various forms rental condo, et cetera. So all all built and around a European style Piazza is, is the vision and which will provide for a vibrant, a meeting space within our community and, and need all of the, the aspects of a whole community from residential to employment to culture and entertainment, all all in one downtown setting. So very, very excited for that actually coming to fruition. And we’ll start to see shovels in the ground hopefully, well, hopefully we will see shovels in the ground this spring and we should see structures above ground sometime later next year.
Sam Demma (18:13):
Awesome. And for an educator tuning in right now who may be considering getting into politics and wanting to make a difference, not only in their school community, but also in their city, what advice do you have? What would you recommend their first step be?
Mayor Dave Ryan (18:33):
The first step is always community it’s, it’s get involved, understand your community, be, be invested in your community. What, what are the issues in the community, what what’s going on. And, and what are your thoughts? How can you contribute to that? When I got started, we, we were, were actually fighting at something. We were fighting a dump that existed here in Japan. And then Sam, you’ll probably remember this when the, when the Toronto dump was up the on third concession, just just west of Brock road there. It’s still there, it’s not opera anymore, but we were fighting to have that that particular facility closed and to stop bringing all of that waste into, into Pickering. And so there was an example of a community issue that needed to be addressed that you needed to get involved in.
Mayor Dave Ryan (19:23):
In, in terms of as educators, I, I don’t know that educators that are gonna be any different than anyone else in terms of how to get involved and, and et cetera. But I would like to say this to the educators that are, that are listening and, and this is just, again my perspective, but something I believe very strongly about we have lost somewhat the focus within the education systems on civics, on government. I think it’s improving I now have grandchildren that that are in the the education system here in, in Durham right here in bickering. And they’re coming home and they’re talking more about current events and, and social geography and, and but it’s late. We, we have to build an understanding of the importance of government, the role of government, and most importantly, the role of you as a citizen in government.
Mayor Dave Ryan (20:25):
And I know we do that you know, because I go into the schools, that’s one of the things that I do is I make myself available, frankly, I’ll, I’ll say that I’m a little disappointed that there hasn’t been more take up on the software, but every year I send a letter to all of the school principals in in Pickering both high school and elementary school. And they say, you know, I, and my council, every member of council are more than willing to come and speak to your classes. And talk about civics, talk about how municipal government works, talk about the city itself. And you know, I, maybe once a year I get someone who actually reaches out a place of unlucky and I’d like to see much more of that. Cause I, I think that there’s a real opportunity here for us to share as we are today sharing experiences, having a discussion.
Mayor Dave Ryan (21:21):
And quite frankly, I just, I just love getting into the schools and, and speaking with students cause they bring very, very fresh and unique perspectives sometimes and sometimes it’s just honest curiosity, you know, they, they, they just don’t know and they want to know. And so I, I would like to put that that offer out there again today. Now I will say that as we speak, I’ve just accepted in with, to Dunbarton high school. Nice. And, and to St. Mary’s. So sometime through the month of February, I’m not sure of the date yet. I will, as back be having a a forum like this, where there’ll be a, an opportunity for Q and a, in those two schools. And I think I’ve also had an, an invitation to St. Monica’s the elementary. Nice. Yeah. So, I mean, it’s, it’s starting to pick up, but again, I’m gonna put that out there for, for your audience. If, if anybody wants, please get in touch with my office and would’ve be more than happy to set something out with myself or with one of the other counselors.
Sam Demma (22:25):
Thank you. It’s highly likely that even if an educator is outside of Pickering, that hopefully their mayor would also be willing to stop in their school. So if you’re in Pickering, please contact Dave, Ryan, you heard it here. If you’re outside of Pickering and you still think this is an issue that is also current in your city and raising awareness about civics is so important, please reach out to yours as well. If they tell you, no, you can email me personally and I’ll go to bat for you. But Mayor Dave Ryan, thank you so much for coming on the show here today. It’s been a pleasure. If someone in the city wants to reach out to the office and get in touch, ask a question or a comment, what would be the best way for them to reach out.
Mayor Dave Ryan (23:08):
Through email firstname.lastname@example.org or my office phone (905) 420-4600.
Sam Demma (23:19):
Awesome. Thank you again, Mayor Dave, Ryan, keep up with the great work and we’ll talk soon.
Mayor Dave Ryan (23:23):
Thank you. And you do the same.
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