Mon, 19 January 2015
Introducing Mel Norton
Sometimes the best way to tackle an issue is to stop perceiving it as a problem but as an opportunity to make things better. This is the approach that Mayor Mel Norton has decided to take while attempting to steer Saint John, New Brunswick in the right direction. Saint John has lots to be proud of; it houses two of the largest IT firms in Atlantic Canada, as well as having Canada’s only liquid natural gas plant and its largest oil refinery. However, Saint John has a number of social issues including a very high child poverty rate, and some of the oldest housing stock in North America. Mel’s solution to some of these types of problems is to get people involved, and to stay positive.
About three years ago, Mel visited a conference in New York City that was honoring seven of innovative cities in the world of which Saint John was one of them. During the conference, one speaker discussed taking cities into a new renaissance. This was a concept that Mel has taken and ran with in Saint John. So how does Mel plan on changing the city for the better? He plans to use a shift in mindset. No longer will Saint John be going to “war” with issues, but embracing opportunity. There will always be problems, but embracing them as opportunities cuts out finger pointing or grand-standing, and instead of being critical the plan is to be cooperative and constructive. This approach allows a “living lab” where changes can be tried and modified if needed. Mel suggests that Saint John should look at the positives and what it is doing right and this will help the city to see how some of the problems it faces can find solutions.
In this episode
Mel tells us the importance of staying positive and to manage the amount of negative influences you experience. He tells us how framing problems as opportunities changes the way you think about an issue. Mel talks about the importance in people-centered leadership and we hear of a fateful journey he took as a child to underground Saint John. Greg and Dave both find appreciation for the approach the mayor is taking and the direction the city is headed.