Edmonton mayoral candidates: Cheryll Watson

While many mayoral candidates vying for votes have previous experience as city councillors, Cheryll Watson believes her business knowledge and outsider perspective will help propel Edmonton forward.

Watson, born to a single mother, grew up in Beverly and worked as a tech innovator with IBM and Intuit. She described being faced with a decision after 15 years of work at Intuit to either move to Silicon Valley or stay in Edmonton.

“I decided to stay,” Watson told CTV News Edmonton. “I really wanted my skills and experiences to help move our city forward. So, I went to work on our economy.”

She then went on to found Innovate Edmonton and co-found the Alberta Innovation Corridor.

It was those experiences that led to her decision to run for mayor. While she led Innovate Edmonton and worked for the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, Watson described how she would meet with the mayor and city administration, and present to council. Watson said those four years opened her eyes to the important role city council plays.

“I really understand how city government works,” she said. “(I saw that) the city’s policies and plans are not being created by the users of the services, or by the people that these policies, bylaws, and supports are meant to serve.

“Now more than ever, I believe we need an outside perspective in how we are moving our city forward.”

'WE NEED PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS'

Watson’s platform focuses on supporting Edmontonians whose basic needs are not being met.

Some of her commitments include improving access to public washrooms, water, free and accessible hygiene items – including menstrual products and sharps disposal – at public facilities, and review policies that criminalize poverty-related activities or excessively ticket those without means to pay.

“We need practical solutions,” Watson said. “I don’t think we are helping anyone when we make commitments that we aren’t able to achieve.”

Her campaign for mayor began in October last year. Since then, Watson is most proud that she was the first candidate to announce a policy solely committed to downtown Edmonton.

“Make business simple,” is Watson’s guiding principle for downtown and the entire city.

“It’s really about creating a more accessible downtown,” she said.

According to Watson, that includes extending free parking downtown from 30 to 60 minutes, developing a central business neighbourhood downtown to support innovation and entrepreneurs, expedite business permit approvals and new processes to escalate permitting issues.

“We have an incredible future ahead of us if we really recognize that we need to create the best possible environment for the companies that are being created here,” she added.

BUILDING BETTER AND SAFER NEIGHBOURHOODS

When it comes to city infrastructure, she plans to ensure every part of the city receives investment when it needs it.

Watson expressed concern over newer suburbs receiving recreation centres while mature neighbourhoods like Eastglen have their pools closed.

“We have an inequality in how many amenities are being created in certain communities,” she said. 

 “We need to create great communities and neighbourhoods no matter where you live.”

Watson also wants to make Edmonton safer for women and girls by installing better lighting on high-use community pathways, increased safety improvements for the LRT and transit, and pass municipal street harassment bylaws empowering authorities to ticket or respond when necessary.

“I want to build a city that works for all Edmontonians, no matter where in the city you live, no matter where you come from – whether you are a born and raised Edmontonian or you are a newcomer.”

If elected, Watson wants the city to focus closer on core services and move away from things that the province or federal government normally provide, or enter into better collaborative and cost-sharing agreements. That way the city can provide services better and ensure it can invest in responsible climate adaptation.

“Let’s be good enabling partners,” Watson said. “That is the type of mindset, and, 'yes, and,' mentality that our city needs to have.”

GET TO KNOW YOUR CANDIDATE

What is your favourite meal in the city?

“That is easy,” Watson said. Her favourite foods are chicken wings and pizza, with The Mercer being her favourite place to enjoy those foods.

Best summer activity in the river valley?

“All of them,” she said. “Our river valley is so incredible, and there are so many things that we can do (there).”

She listed attending Folk Fest and enjoying the trail system while walking or biking as her top activities.

Favourite viewpoint or public art piece in Edmonton?

“The Talus balls,” Watson shared. “I like them because they are such a surprise.

“You’re really not expecting them to be there; you aren’t really expecting that kind of art piece there in the river valley.”

Do you have any unknown talents or hobbies?

“We have a family band,” Watson said, that includes her husband and four children.

“I sing backup and have been known to play the tambourine,” she added. “That’s one of the things that we like to do as a family.”

What was the last book you read?

Shantaram: A Novel, by Gregory David Roberts.

Watson, who has been to India 15 times, describes the novel as one of her favourites as it shares insights into the beauty of Indian culture.

What sport do you enjoy playing or watching the most?

Watson said her favourite sports to play are tennis and slo-pitch.

“There are those that would question my skills in both of those sports, but I do like to try,” Watson added, as she laughed.

She enjoys watching Oilers games with her family.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

In high school, Watson described how she followed her friend group into hairdressing.

“Very quickly, I discovered that I had no hairdressing ability,” she said. “So that dream was quickly crushed.”