When Andrea Kaiser’s name popped up as a candidate for regional councillor on the last day for nominations, it may have been a surprise to many — not that she’s running, but that she is hoping to represent Niagara-on-the-Lake residents at the region.
In two telephone polls, one quite recent, she was listed as a possible candidate for lord mayor, so of course there has been much speculation we would see her name added to that list, even though, after running in two federal elections as the Liberal candidate, she said she was stepping back from politics and concentrating on career and family.
However, in a recent conversation about that poll with a friend, when she explained she wasn’t ready for the full-time commitment and responsibility required as lord mayor, she was asked instead if she would consider serving as regional councillor. The more she thought about it, she says, the more she realized it was something she would like to do, that would enable her to get back to her involvement in politics at a municipal, non-partisan level, and would fit into her current stage of life.
Her kids are adults, 24 and 26 now, her award-winning Drea’s Wine Company, in memory of her father Karl J. Kaiser, is established, as is the business she shares with her brother, Kaiser Design and Marketing. And she has cut back to a couple of days a week with Reif Estate Winery, where she has worked in marketing for many years. So she quickly raced around getting the signatures need to register, and now she is ready to work with her sign committee — her son and daughter and their significant others, she says — and start knocking on doors. “I’ve come full circle,” she laughs, recalling that she and her daughter, then 11, were her 2003 sign committee for her first run at municipal council.
And she loves knocking on doors, meeting new people and listening to their stories, she says.
Since Kaiser served three terms at the NOTL council table, from 2003 to 2014, before deciding not to seek another term so she could devote more time to family and career, her desire “to be of service to my community” hasn’t changed, she says. “This seems like a good way to continue to serve and contribute, and still have a manageable workload balance. It might be just the right thing for me, with my municipal experience and the history of the past that I can bring to the table.”
Kaiser says she’s always tried to be “collaborative and transparent,” and those are skillsets that are needed at the region, where you are working with others.
It is also a position where the elected regional representative has to work with the lord mayor, who is automatically appointed to regional council. “We have three great candidates, and I’ve started to have conversations with all of them,” she says, sure she can work with whomever is elected.
She feels the opportunity to run for regional council has presented itself at just the right time. “It feels like a door has opened. The paths we take aren’t always what we planned. Nobody likes to lose,” she says, referring to her federal election campaigns. “Maybe this is where I‘m supposed to be.”
Her experience at the municipal council table, she says, will allow her to contribute in a meaningful way at the region, while following her guiding principals, built on the pillars of sustainability, economic prosperity, and environmental protection and social inclusion.
Strategic planning is something she’s good at, and will help with her goal of building a sustainable economy for NOTL and the region.
Kaiser currently serves as chairperson of Ontario Craft Wineries Sustainable Winemaking Certification Program. Her daughter, Madison Lepp, whose thesis proposal for her Brock University Masters of Sustainability is on Building Climate Change Resilience and Climate Equity in Canadian Municipalities, has long been Kaiser’s inspiration for making environmental issues and climate change a priority.
She’s also had lots of experience working around the region, with wineries and agriculture, she says.
“And I’ve always been a cheerleader for Niagara-on-the-Lake. I love to contribute and to be involved. It sounds so corny, but I want to be working for a better future.”