Jillian Merrick will not be seeking a second term on Prince George city council.
She posted on her blog that needed to take a new direction and had made the decision to not seek re-election in February but gave herself four months “to change my mind” before making her decision public. Merrick has been splitting her time between Prince George and Wells and ran unsuccessfully for the mayor’s position there in a byelection earlier this month.
“My quick answer to the ‘why?’ question is usually this: I need a job,” she wrote. “It’s a bit tongue-in cheek, but it’s true. My commitment to council has hindered my ability to advance my other career talents, not to mention my finances. Over the last four years, I’ve piecemealed together various part-time jobs and short-term contracts to get by, which means no vacation time, no sick leave, no extended health coverages, no opportunity for advancement, nada.”
She said her council has been great for future career aspirations.
“The modest pay, long hours, and lack of traditional benefits were not injustices, just the reality of the situation,” she wrote. “I knew full well what I was getting into when I ran, and the scrimping and saving I did over the last four years was a willing part of serving my community, but stretching that service and modest existence into four more years (a total of eight!) is not an option for my career and financial goals.”
The impact on her family, and the denigration that politicians often endure, is another factor, she said, pointing to a column by Prince George Citizen editor Neil Godbout who suggested she should have resigned her seat in Prince George before taking a run at the mayor’s position in Wells.
“The residents of Wells shouldn’t have to settle for a Prince George city councillor and a part-time resident of their community as their mayor,” he wrote. “On the plus side, however, they can likely expect a far more progressive policy on backyard chickens.”
Merrick said she could take such criticism, but seeing the toll it takes on her family was too much.
“In my last blog post, I provided more insight into the challenges politics poses to a marriage, but it really hit home recently when The Citizen’s Neil Godbout published a rather nasty and personal editorial about me,” she wrote. “It rattled me a bit, but I moved on quickly. My husband called me the day it was published – a somewhat unusual gesture. When I saw him two days later, he was clearly shaken. I had been so concerned with maintaining my own stiff upper lip that I failed to see the damaging effect that toxic public discourse had on my partner. He was not OK with grumpy old men calling his wife names. I signed up for this. He didn’t.
“Running for office means four more years of estranged friends, feelings of social isolation, and pressures on the person I love most. I think if I had a clear sense of a new mandate for the next four years, I’d feel motivated to overcome these challenges, but I don’t.”
She added she is a “change agent” and she doesn’t see too many changes coming to the current council after October 20, which isn’t a bad thing, she said, as council is doing a good job. Her decision not to run will open up at least one new seat.
“Make no mistake, I love being a politician, especially in local government, and I will miss it dearly, but Prince George needs fresh blood,” she wrote. “With four years of experience under my belt, I am no longer the young upstart candidate. Time for a new one (and maybe a few more). Having more than one millennial on council would be really great. We are set to outnumber baby boomers by 2019, after all. Time for our board tables to start reflecting that.”
Read her entire blog post here.