After Nicole Read moved to Maple Ridge with her family eight years ago, she immediately noticed flaws within not only Maple Ridge’s council system, but the city as a whole.
Read and her family live in a small neighbourhood in Maple Ridge called Silver Valley.
It’s not quite far enough out to be separated from the city, but not quite close enough to make them in a central location with a small commute time to and from work and school.
Growing from a mom in a small town complaining about the issues she saw on her Facebook page, Read has turned into a powerful figure in her community who has addressed issues that have been looked over for years.
A figure so powerful, that she has gained the trust of the community to an extent that she replaced Maple Ridge’s two-term mayor, Ernie Daykin, in this year’s election.
“My children are growing up in an incomplete community,” Read said. “They can’t walk to school, bike to their friends’ house, or a kick a ball at a neighbourhood field. My family commutes out of town for activities and services and some areas of our city are just unsafe.”
Read’s constant hassling of council and public outcries for change has gained her over 1,200 Facebook likes on her mayoral candidate page.
On this page, heated discussions take place every other day, ranging from residents accusing her of not being able to be a mayor when she has two kids, to residents praising her for taking an interest in the issues at hand.
Just like the Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, a Muslim academic, became mayor six years ago through the power and activity through social media, Read has achieved the same victory on a much smaller scale.
From complaints about the state of homelessness, to complaints about the mayor himself, Read has no problem voicing her opinion about anybody, or retaliating against people on her page who call her out.
Shortly after Ottawa’s Parliament Hill shooting, Read took a drive through her city and was shocked at what she found. After a day of cities around Canada lowering their flags to half-mast, Read was saddened to see that her city wasn’t one of them.
The flags at Maple Ridge’s city hall were still waving high and proud in the sky.
Outraged, Read reached out to Mayor Ernie Daykin via Facebook demanding that he lower the flags.
Understandably, Read’s followers were just as upset with Daykin for not having all of the flags in the city lowered, but Daykin had a different story to tell.
“A set of flags were missed. No one is perfect and the lessons learned will ensure appropriate timing and action in the future,” Daykin said in an email. “If the roles were reversed based on what I view as a possible relationship… I would have called her first before posting.”
Read also doesn’t hold back when it comes to publicly announcing when a resident has called her out.
Read willingly refers to private comments citizens make on her Facebook page by quoting them and confidently responding.
None of this has seemed to lead any of Read’s followers astray, however.
According to the Vancouver Sun, 81 per cent of Maple Ridge demanded to see a change in local government prior to the civic election, leaving outgoing Mayor Ernie Daykin out in the cold come voting time.
Other than Daykin and Read, Maple Ridge’s mayoral candidates had a less combined Twitter following than Read’s Facebook page “likes.”
Read’s “fix-it-up” attitude has become a hit with the public, attempting to address every concern each citizen has.
Not everyone is convinced, though. A resident named Nicole replied to one of Read’s Facebook post with a question at the back of some residents’ minds.
“All the feel good comments sound good but how high are you thinking of raising our taxes to make this city perfect?” Nicole asked in a comment.
Read hasn’t detailed a financial outline of how she plans on achieving these goals considering she just won the seat, but still promised that she wouldn’t be raising property taxes and in fact planned on lowering them.
Residents across the board were excited and surprised to hear of Read’s election as mayor, which goes to show that the power of social media has the ability to skyrocket fringe candidates into waters that land them right next to other front-runners.