November 5, 2004
The first Jewish mayor
Stephen Mandel's win in Edmonton surprises many.
NEIL LOOMER SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH BULLETIN
With a victory described as a "stunning upset" by Edmonton's
media, Stephen Mandel was elected Edmonton's first Jewish mayor
The 59-year-old Mandel was serving a single three-year term on city
council when he entered the race for mayor. He becomes the second
Jewish mayor elected in Western Canada this year, following Sam
Katz in Winnipeg.
Throughout the campaign, opinion polls showed Mandel trailing three-term
mayor Bill Smith and former city councillor Robert Noce. But by
the time the last poll was released, just days before the Oct. 18
vote, Mandel had caught up to the frontrunners and, on election
day, he surprised even his supporters by taking 40 per cent of the
votes, 17,000 more than Smith.
Mandel promised voters that he would work to "make Edmonton
a capital city again," referring to the feeling of many Edmontonians
that Calgary has been receiving the major share of the benefits
from Alberta's booming economy. He has also said he would try to
build consensus on city council, unlike the former mayor, who was
often accused of forging ahead with his own agenda.
Mandel moved to Edmonton in 1972 from his native Windsor, Ont. He
earned undergraduate degrees in arts and business from universities
in the United States and a master's in political science from the
University of Windsor.
He moved to Edmonton to work with his father and has been involved
in land development, trailer parks, small shopping centres and other
commercial properties. His father, David, died of cancer in 1982.
Mandel has been an active volunteer in both the Jewish and general
communities. In 1997 and 1998, he was president of the Jewish Federation
of Edmonton and, until his election to council, he was a board member
of the Beit Horim Society, a group dedicated to establishing a Jewish
seniors residence in Edmonton.
Up to a few years ago, he could also be seen on the ice or the baseball
diamond as part of the Jewish hockey and baseball leagues, but a
heart by-pass operation two years ago put a halt to those activities.
Mandel is a member of Temple Beth Ora, Edmonton's Reform congregation.
Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph describes Mandel as a longtime supporter
who is "quietly generous without a lot of fanfare." Her
congregation is thrilled with his victory and believes that his
straightforward approach and sense of humor will be appreciated
by all Edmontonians.
The day after his election, Mandel celebrated his 31st wedding anniversary
with his wife, Lynn. Their children, Rachel, 27, and Adam, 24, are
attending university in Florida.
Also prominent in the post-election coverage was his 91-year-old
mother, Bessie, who lives in an Edmonton retirement home. Newspaper
reports commented on how Mandel would often have to leave council
meetings early to drive his mother to an appointment.
Mandel's religion was referred to a few times during the campaign,
mostly with references to the Yiddish words and sayings he often
uses in conversation.
The other Jewish member of Edmonton's city council, Karen Leibovici,
easily won re-election in her West End ward.
Neil Loomer is editor of Edmonton Jewish Life.
This article was originally published in the Canadian Jewish
News and is reprinted with permission.