Keith Gerein: Self-described 'Energizer Bunny,' Kim Krushell takes the slow road in mayor's race

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Listening to Kim Krushell, a self-described “Energizer Bunny,” it’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm she projects.

I won’t make a joke about her gusto being as infectious as COVID-19, but this is one mayoral candidate who knows how to achieve community transmission, at least when it comes to spreading her ideas.

Yes, Krushell is a talker.

I saw this when I covered her first couple of years on council.

She talked often during meetings. On breaks, she would talk to visitors and speakers who attended the meetings. When the meetings ended, she could be seen off to the side talking to city administrators, or fellow councillors.

Then she would come into the media wing and spend 30 minutes talking to journalists. Often she wanted to talk longer, but had to leave to go talk to constituents on the phone.

Such is the life of a successful city councillor, though I’ve rarely seen one who enjoyed that aspect of it so much.


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(To be clear, this is not a criticism. We accept, even celebrate, this characteristic in male politicians, and it should be no different for women).

Now Krushell is attempting the most difficult conversation of her career. In the next four months, she has to talk Edmonton voters into the idea that she’s the best candidate for the mayor’s chair — and do it against a crowded field, and after a long absence from the council spotlight.

“I know I talk a lot but I also get things done,” she said. “The next mayor is going to need to be an Energizer Bunny.”

So far, on the surface at least, there’s not much to indicate Krushell is gaining a lot of traction.

Unlike Mike Nickel and Amarjeet Sohi, it’s hard to find one of her lawn signs. Unlike Michael Oshry, there’s little evidence of billboard or Internet advertising. News conferences have been rare, and she even admits her team has yet to do much door knocking.


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While some observers and opponents suggest these are signs of a struggling candidate, Krushell insists it is all by design.

The public part of the campaign is just getting ramped up, she said, adding that most voters tend to start paying attention to the election when September comes around.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.

And Krushell could probably use the time to introduce — or reintroduce — herself to Edmontonians.

For those needing a little refresher, Krushell spent several years as councillor Larry Langley’s executive assistant before serving on council herself from 2004-2013.

She was often, though not always, an ally of then-mayor Stephen Mandel. Notable initiatives she championed included the removal of Edmonton’s trolley system, a dedicated tax for neighbourhood renewal, the Downtown arena deal and the closure of the City Centre Airport.


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That last issue proved to be the most divisive. During the 2010 civic election, a group hoping to keep the airport open waged a campaign against Krushell that was about as ugly as I’ve ever seen in this city.

She managed to eke out a victory, but the stink of that experience lingered. By 2013, Krushell decided a break was in order, in part to devote time to her family, including a couple of ailing in-laws.

Over the past eight years, she’s done just that, but also jumped into the tech world. The big project has been Lending Assist, which offers secure technology for transmitting legal and financial documents that is custom-designed for clients — a service that has been especially valuable during the pandemic.

That private-sector time seems to have had an influence on her platform, which could be described as business friendly, not unlike most of her opponents. Highlights include a tax freeze at minimum for two years, a big bet on tech innovation, caution on infrastructure spending, and getting the city and Edmonton companies alike to buy local.


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“We need to be real about who we are, but we also need to be bold,” she said, before adding that the city also needs to invest in softer things since a single focus on taxes and core services won’t be enough to keep and retain talented people.

As for leadership style, which is all-important for mayors, one of Krushell’s core platform pillars is to make a big investment in collaboration and team building. In part, this may be to blunt an occasional criticism that all that talking she does can come at the expense of listening.

Krushell says this is a characterization that is too often unfairly put on women politicians, though she’s been taking steps to keep that impression to a minimum.

“I am extrovert. … I get really excited and I think out loud, and I think sometimes people can take that as not listening.”

Regardless, I think Krushell’s greatest challenge in this election is to get people talking about her. The eight years she spent out of politics seems to have provided valuable experience, but may have come at the cost of name recognition, and I’m not sure the slow-build campaign style is helpful to overcoming that.

In other words, while the Energizer Bunny has no interest in joining the other hares running out ahead, will she have enough juice to catch up this fall?


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