I stumbled across Mike Magee shortly after 2001. In Vancouver’s non-profit world his reputation as a go-to guy was gold, and his name was whispered among friends in amazement. The first time I met him – in some meeting or other long forgotten – I thought ‘very smart, very creative, a little laid back.’
I got to know Mike a lot better in 2005, after I was recruited to run Vision Vancouver’s first civic election campaign. It could not have been a crazier time. Vision had morphed from a caucus-like COPE rump group into a full-fledged civic party in a matter of a few months. Their fantastically popular leader, Mayor Larry Campbell, had up and decided to become a senator, leaving the brand new Vision Vancouver searching for a mayoralty candidate and a team of running mates.
Then there was the relationship with COPE – an official mess. With a split on the centre/left, an unknown new party and a newly rejuvenated NPA the campaign seemed less than hopeful as I sat on the beach and contemplated joining it. “Story of my life,” I thought and jumped in.
I’m glad I did. I got to experience the dirtiest, craziest campaign I will ever be a part of. And in all of it Mike Magee was a centre of calm. What I thought of previously as ‘laid back’ I came to understand as ‘focused’. Smart and creative? Absolutely. But also very, very focused. It’s a big reason why we won four seats and should have won the mayor’s chair in a campaign where we shouldn’t have had a chance.
Francis Bula has done a good job capturing that part of the Magee mystique in an in depth profile of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Chief of Staff in the latest Vancouver Magazine.
“Magee—networker, bargainer, cajoler, and, when necessary, enforcer,” according to Bula, “is at the heart of a group committed to transforming an idealistic young organic farmer and businessman into a winning political brand.”
That’s part of Magee’s focus but not all of it. That group has also married the Robertson brand to the Vision brand – the name’s no accident. The result? A team obviously focused on delivering on a promise of Vancouver as a greener and more socially sustainable city.
Compare that to the NPA, who can’t even decide on a name, let alone an alternate vision. Bula leaves little doubt that currently the two teams aren’t even in the same league. Magee shoulders a lot of the credit for that.