Lisa Blackburn stands outside for three hours on a cold December morning as Halifax pauses to remember the horrific events of more than a century ago–the Halifax Explosion. She is here to commemorate. She is here to deliver remarks of remembrance from the city’s mayor. Such is the life of the Deputy Mayor and Lisa loves it.
“I covered city council for years as a reporter,” she says. “But to see behind the curtains at how the sausage is made has given me a whole new understanding of the process and a real appreciation for the people involved.”
Lisa’s journey from King’s to City Hall has not been one of blinding political ambition. Far from it. For years she did exactly what she wanted to do–talk on the radio.
“I listened to talk radio growing up. It fascinated me.”
So, when it came time to go to university King’s School of Journalism was her number one choice. Along with her courses she also leapt at the chance for practical experience. As soon as her first year started, she says, “I marched over to CKDU radio at Dalhousie and asked to volunteer. I started by doing newscasts once a week, then producing a news information show. I stuck with it all the way through my time at King’s.”
When she graduated it didn’t take long to find work. First it was a vacation relief gig at a regional TV station. Then she signed on with a Halifax radio station.
“I got hired on at Q104 as an on-call reporter and worked my way up from there. A few years later I was hosting the morning show.”
A giant check mark on her life to-do list.
In 2009 another opportunity presented itself. Rogers Radio came to town with a unique idea.
“They wanted the very first husband and wife morning show in Atlantic Canada.”
Lisa and her husband/co-host Jamie Paterson lit up the airwaves for four years.
“It was probably the better part of twenty-five years that I was getting up every morning at
3 a.m.,” she says with a laugh that, surprisingly, doesn’t sound tired.
When the Rogers Radio job ended Lisa worked as a web writer for CBC. That was when she first considered running for Halifax City Council.
“I had learned in my broadcast career that I really enjoyed all the public appearances, hosting events, food drives. I found that I got more satisfaction bussing tables at the community breakfast with Santa than I ever got from putting on a newscast. So, when my husband suggested I run for council and others did too, it felt right.”
In 2016 Lisa was elected as Councillor for Upper/Middle Sackville, Lucasville and Beaver Bank. Her first thought when she entered City Hall was, “How the frig did this happen?”
She knows of course.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of transferable skills there are from journalism to City Council. The public speaking for sure. But it is also the critical and analytical thinking I learned at King’s that is vital.”
And now she is Deputy Mayor.
“It’s a one-year term voted on by fellow councillors. 2020 is an election year and so if being deputy mayor shows one other woman that she can run for office, then I will have considered this a success.”