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Mayor Jim Watson: Finding the courage to be yourself

One could say Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is nearly as synonymous with the nation’s capital as the Parliament building or Beaver Tail treats, but he never quite felt at home in his own skin, at least not until he revealed he is gay.

Mayor Watson recently authored a personal letter, published in the Ottawa Citizen. “As I look back over my life, and in hindsight, not coming out sooner was a big mistake on my part,” he noted.

Being Comfortable with Who You Are

In this video, Mayor Watson sits down for a conversation with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner during the 2019 Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference, held in Ottawa. They discuss the letter, his career and personal journey, and why he believes it is so important for communities to continue raising the Pride flag and celebrating diversity.

“The last year or two I have been thinking about what should I do. I decided to write an opinion piece; I did that a couple weeks ago. I’m glad I did it, but I was a little late. I said I’m a bit of a late bloomer,” Mayor Watson said. “My advice, not that I have any expertise in being an open gay man except for three days, I said be comfortable. If you want to come out, it’s a very personal decision; don’t feel pressured or rushed, but don’t take 40 years either.”

Mayor Watson was elected to city council when he was 30 years old, served as last elected mayor of the city prior to its amalgamation, headed up a Crown corporation, and jumped into provincial politics for seven years before returning home and being elected mayor, a position he has held since 2010.

Supporting Others on Their Personal Journeys

While somewhat downplaying his own courage around making such a declaration, Mayor Watson said he hopes his decision will provide some comfort and inspiration to those going through their own journey.

“I’m not thrusting my sexual preference on anyone; it’s just as a public figure, hopefully my coming out will maybe help a few people with their struggle,” he said. “I’ve met some people just in the last three days who are going through the same process. How do I come out? Who do I talk to? Again, I’m not an expert on this, but my advice is you don’t have to come out if you don’t want to, but it is a bit of a weight off your shoulders.”  MW

✯ Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in the article: Pam Davis: Woman of Influence in Local Government. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.

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