Canadian Consulting Engineer

Into Politics

Diane Freeman, P. Eng. is not only the president of Professional Engineers Ontario, she is also an associate with consulting engineers Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, and she is a councillor for th...

October 1, 2010   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Diane Freeman, P. Eng. is not only the president of Professional Engineers Ontario, she is also an associate with consulting engineers Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, and she is a councillor for the City of Waterloo. At the time of this interview, she was campaigning for re-election.

CCE: WHY DID YOU BECOME A CITY COUNCILLOR?

It really goes back to the iron ring ceremony. As part of that ceremony engineers are called to serve. They’re called to serve the public, and they’re called to serve as sons and daughters of Martha to serve the sons and daughters of Mary. I think that is a really profound idea.

Yet we often have a willingness to sit on the outside of politics, and say, “Well if they only did it this way, or if they only did it that way, maybe things would be a little bit different.” Both engineers and the broader citizenry are guilty of that.

I felt that there was something in the idea of someone putting engineering principles to work in politics -the idea of analytical thinking, and questioning answers. Also, if we want to see more women represented in politics, we have to look hard amongst ourselves as women to identify individuals to run, and then support them to be successful.

So I decided to put two things on the ballot in 2006, and that was being an engineer and being a woman. I thought I would see whether or not the citizens of Waterloo felt that an engineer and a woman would bring some value to the decision-making table. It would appear that they did. But it was a tight race.

CCE. AS A POLITICIAN, DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE?

I work really hard to try to be responsive to the community, to return peoples’ phone calls and respond to e-mails as fast as I can. And I try to recognize where I need to step up and help make a difference.

There are several things that I am particularly proud of. One was bringing together a group of individuals in a neighbourhood to launch a Parks Watch program. The other was working with the same neighbourhood to have a school constructed that the majority of students could walk to.

My background is civil engineering and I spent a lot of time doing municipal engineering in my earlier career. I think that has really brought a lot of value to the discussion.

Q. HOW DO YOU FIT BEING A COUNCILLOR AND PEO PRESIDENT INTO YOUR DAY JOB?

I couldn’t possibly begin to even consider taking this on -any of it -if Conestoga-Rovers and Associates did not have a forward vision. They’re taking a real leadership role as a firm in terms of trying to shape the profession and grow the community. I’ve worked for them since I was a student in 1991.

I’m also very scheduled. Where some people do one thing a day, or two things a day, I might do five things a day.

My sons are 15 and 12, and my husband is an engineer. I have to say I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. My family is awesome, and politics really is a family commitment. A lot of people think that to do the things I do, I make choices to not spend time with my family, but that’s really not the case.

I also really believe that as a parent, if I can’t mentor volunteerism to my children, who can?


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