Joni Baechler, the former Mayor of the City of London, has joined Western University as the first-ever Distinguished Practitioner in Residence for its Local Government Program.
Before being appointed the Mayor of London by City Council on June 24, 2014, Baechler represented London’s Ward 5 as a city councillor from 2000 to 2014.
Western’s Local Government Program offers diplomas and Masters degrees in public administration.
During her one-year term as Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Baechler, a Western alumna with a BA’82 (Physical Education), will deliver guest presentations in a variety of courses, with an emphasis on urban politics and increasing women’s participation in municipal government. Baechler will also participate in lectures, workshops, group discussions and other events with students, faculty, staff and alumni.
“I am truly looking forward to connecting with students at Western. I have enjoyed a life-long love of learning and this new position not only allows me to share my insight with the next generation of public administrators but also provides an extraordinary opportunity to engage with Western’s faculty and staff, who are already delivering a first-rate education,” said Baechler.
In addition to serving London on Council, Baechler was appointed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to serve on the following committees during her political career: Municipal Infrastructure and Transportation Policy, Social Economic Development, Intergovernmental and Municipal infrastructure, Environment and Sustainable Development, International Relations and Increasing Women’s Participation in Municipal Government.
“Joni is one of Ontario’s most highly respected municipal politicians,” said Martin Horak, Director of Western’s Local Government Program, which is based in the Faculty of Social Science. “She is widely known for being thoughtful and decisive and Western students will greatly benefit from her vast knowledge of city politics and her passion for civic duty.”
Western has a history of this kind of knowledge transfer opportunity for its students, as Allan O’Brien, the former Mayor of Halifax, was instrumental in the formation of the Local Government program in 1974. And while the position of Practitioner in Residence is not unique to Western, Baechler brings a distinctive perspective to the role.
“Most often, public administration programs host practitioners who are public sector administrators. Having a former politician in the role provides an entirely different, and important, point of view for the students,” explained Horak.
Since its inception in 1974, more than 1,000 graduates have successfully completed Western’s Local Government Program. Many of these alumni now hold prominent administrative positions in local governments across Ontario and Canada.