Colleen James and her supporters danced and laughed into the night to celebrate her history-making election victory Monday.
“I am excited,” said James at her election-night party in the Island Mix Restaurant & Lounge on King Street West in downtown Kitchener.
“It’s huge, I don’t even know if the community recognizes just how momentous this is for the region,” said James.
She is the first Black woman elected to the 16-member regional council, which is responsible for the biggest and most expensive municipal services in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and the townships.
“I am really grateful for the community for showing up, and really supporting me, and supporting this campaign and voting for the change the community has been calling for,” said James.
The St.Kitts-Nevis rooted Kitchener born and raised, James grew up in Country Hills and Victoria Hills. She attended Cameron Heights and Resurrection. She left Kitchener to study at the University of Toronto, and returned after graduating. She now lives with her family in Doon South.
“I have seen this community grow and change,” said James. “It’s home — it always has been.”
She worked as a research assistant for regional council in the past, and wants a collaborative approach to the tough issues facing the region.
“We have a homeless crisis, we have a housing affordability situation, we have a budget crisis,” said James.
“So that’s going to be doing things differently, that’s going to be looking at how we have done things in the past, and changing some of those models that don’t work,” said James.
Kitchener voters elected four people to regional council Monday. James polled the most votes with 13,519.
Born and raised in Kitchener, Colleen James has experienced the good, the bad and the ugly parts of her Waterloo Region.
The community doesn’t look the same as it once was when her family immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean in the 1970s. But there’s still a long way to go. Her father is from St.Kitts-Nevis and her mother is from Antigua
As an entrepreneur, Colleen founded her own business – Divonify. During the past six years, she’s worked closely with fellow business owners who are committed to change. Specializing in equity, social justice, and education, Colleen has led a wide range of private and public-sector organizations through tailored workshops, training, and one-on-one consultations.
A sought-after speaker, she was named one of the Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada in 2020. Last year, she was named one of the top Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Persons of the Year in 2021. Colleen sits on several committees, including K-W Oktoberfest, the Kitchener Public Library and is a Selection Committee Member with Leadership Waterloo Region. She’s also involved in many collaborative community projects, including the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region where she established the James STEM scholarship. Colleen is a graduate of Leadership Waterloo Region and holds a B.A. in History, Political Science and Caribbean Studies and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy.