Janice Perrino’s advice to any woman thinking about running for elected office is “Just do it.”
Two terms as Summerland’s mayor, preceded by six years as a councillor, has given Janice first hand insights into women in politics.
“I didn’t have a lot of confidence that I could win either as councillor or mayor, but I wanted to so badly,” she says. Fuelled by her hallmark determination and hard work she succeeded each time.
Once in office a politician is faced with a steady stream of issues requiring decisions. “I try to get all the facts, listen to all sides and think about what is good for future generations,” Janice says. “Sometimes I have to just follow my gut.”
And her decisions aren’t necessarily set in stone. “I’ve had my mind changed so many times on so many issues,” she says.
No stranger to controversy Janice says from experience that it only makes you stronger. “Women are always supposed to be nice,"she says. "Social graces are indeed important, but you must face controversial situations head-on.”
Janice has found that "none of us get any training in dealing with controversy. However, you have no choice but to stand up for what you believe in.”
She quotes the American author Elbert Hubbard. “To avoid controversy do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”
“The hardest part is how you will be perceived by the public when you hit the front page of a newspaper or are the subject of a bad editorial,” Janice says. “Simply put—it hurts to get trashed.”
Regardless of her own feelings, Janice thinks it’s important to be considerate of others.“Be careful how you treat people. You never know what they’ve been through or how they got there.”
Family support helps Janice stay strong. “When I get home after a hard day, the dog runs to greet me and my husband turns on the tea kettle,” she says. Janice’s family also includes two grown children and three grandchildren, all aged four.
Asked when she first became interested in politics, Janice replies, “Shortly after birth.”
Born and raised in Calgary, Janice recalls heated family discussions about Pierre Trudeau and Robert Stanfield. “My uncle knew Trudeau when he visited the Bugaboos. I think that and Trudeau’s charisma is what got me interested in politics,” Janice says.
Renowned Canadian politician, author and broadcaster, Judy LaMarsh, was her great aunt.
“I love the challenge of politics and the process of working through issues. The truth is I absolutely loved being mayor,” Janice says
While in the mayor’s chair, Janice also served as the executive director of the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation.
This summer she made the difficult decision not to seek re-election, but her role in public life is far from over.
“I will be devoting my energies full time to raising the $20 million needed to cover the cost of all the medical equipment associated with the expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital.”
Looking to the day the money has been raised, Janice says, “I hope my political life isn’t done. Who knows what the future holds.”
By Susan McIver
Photo: Janice Perrino (left) on election night in Summerland 2008