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Meet Your City Councillors: Behind the Scenes and In Person
Vasilios Karidogiannis, District of L’Abord à Plouffe
Having grown up in the highly-charged political times of the 1970s, Karidogiannis was introduced to the political scene at an early age. His parents, who were recent immigrants to Canada at the time, had lively discussions in his presence and also brought him to volunteer at events where he was able to get a sense of bigger province-wide, national and international issues. At the age of 10, he volunteered for a local citizen’s group.
“We attended a lot of meetings and rallies, and so that’s how my political interests began,” says Karidogiannis. “I was able to experience first-hand what city councillors experience, and I was introduced to municipal politics at a very young age.” In high school, Karidogiannis says he often questioned his teachers and others in authority about issues surrounding student life. “I would ask a lot of questions, mainly to understand why things were the way they were and if there was a way to make it better,” he says.
Despite a defeat in running for class president in the eighth grade, Karidogiannis did not give up on the prospect of working in politics. Though he participated in the family business—his parents owned a dry-cleaning business—he pursued education in various fields such as History, Math, Physics and even Interior Design. “For me, learning is life-long, and as much as I can learn, I learn. I took every opportunity to learn,” he says, “but it wasn’t a means to an end or to directly get a job.”
When he moved to Laval in 2004 to remain in the city where his wife grew up, he began to take note of the way in which the city was being run, particularly from an urbanistic standpoint. “Back then, it was just one strip mall after another next to big empty lots, and then you’d find a luxury high-rise condo next to a farm that was semi-abandoned…there was just no continuity or character to the city at that time,” explains Karidogiannis. His first mission was to rectify this.
After the passing of his daughter in 2010, he and his wife began a foundation in her name to raise money for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Through that ordeal, Karidogiannis began to develop a stronger sense of purpose. “It was from that point that I felt the strong push for public service,” he says. He then decided to run in the election of 2013. “I wanted to see what good I could do.”
Since he’s been elected, Karidogiannis has been listening to citizens’ needs, and the biggest project currently underway is to improve the plumbing in his district, which has been a long-standing issue for many residents.
In addition to that, there are plans to refurbish parks, and preliminary plans are underway to improve the skating rinks and soccer fields. For Karidogiannis, despite juggling a separate career as a business owner in addition to his work as city councillor, he feels he is here to serve others. “It’s about the desire to do good, to change things, to make them better…to be better.”
Ray Khalil, District of Ste-Dorothée
Despite not having a background in politics before running in the 2013 election, Khalil describes himself as being a people person, a very sociable being. After graduating with a degree in Medical Biology, Khalil began working in a lab and conducting research. Though he enjoyed this work, there was something missing. “Rats don’t talk back to you; they don’t call, they don’t answer, so it was that social factor that was missing for me,” muses Khalil.
After suffering from an illness that required him to stop working for about a year, Khalil had time to reflect on what he wanted to do with his life, and he was convinced he needed to work with people. After recovering from his illness, he began to work in sales and co-ran a catering business with a friend, but again, he felt something was missing.
When the election of 2013 came around, Khalil found himself surrounded by family and friends who were having various difficulties with their district, and through those discussions, the idea to run for city councillor was born. “It’s really important to me that people understand that I am accessible,” says Khalil. It’s no coincidence that he provides citizens with his personal cell phone number. “When people are stuck and they don’t know what to do or who to call, they need that support. That’s what I want to give.”
Having lived in Laval for 11 years, Khalil is recently married and now the father of a 5-month old daughter. “I really enjoy my district, as it has a nice diversity: it’s agricultural and commercial, there are older and newer areas, parks, bike paths, and all of this with an ethnic diversity too.”
Upon election in 2013, Khalil immediately began working on lowering speed limits—a request from citizens—which has been successfully completed in many areas of the district. Further improvements are also in the works. He also worked on a 6.5 million dollar renovation to the main hockey arena.
He is currently working on two big projects. The first one is a 144 km bike path that passes through Ste-Dorothée, which is slated to be finished in 2017. The second is the construction of a brand new community center for the district, which would allow more services to come to the area. More public announcements on this project will be made in 2017, but it’s one that Khalil is very passionate about. “There are so many great organizations already in our area with volunteers who work very hard, so this would be a great addition to what they are already doing,” says Khalil.
Emphasizing the fact that he is always accessible to citizens and welcomes them to call him, Khalil believes that this is the direction to take if one is to make progress for his city and deliver what is needed. “No one can guarantee any specific result, but I believe in hard work and those that work with me know that and see that,” he says. “People know that I am willing to go all the way to help solve a problem, so I like to let the results speak for themselves.”
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