SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF –
More than two years into his political career, Aakash Desai is enjoying the cohesive manner that seems to prevail over the current group of councillors at the Municipality of Grey Highlands. "Looking back on the last couple of years, it hasn't been very different compared to what I was expecting," said Desai, adding, "I had been attending every meeting of the previous council since May of 2014."
At 26 years of age, he brings a contradictory combination of youth and maturity to the job with an undeniable interest in all things political. But as his age might also indicate, technology figures highly in his life and similarly in his newly discovered public persona.
Together with his co-host Shea Angus, Desai tackles everything from federal politics to feminism in his YouTube podcast, 'Politically Inclined.' Every week this duo wax their views on a variety of topics in conversations, each podcast lasting well over an hour.
On Facebook and Twitter, Desai fearlessly posts and shares his own opinions as well as random and often benign videos and humorous memes, putting his thoughts and personality out there for all to see. But despite such unabashed expression, Desai is adamant that so far, he hasn't experienced any backlash from those who might take issue with his viewpoints.
"It is imperative that the people who elected me to the forum know how I feel about the topics that are being discussed... [their response] gives me an alternate perspective. I'm a big believer in sticking to my opinions, but at the same time I'm willing to change them if given convincing evidence."
He points to the Arab Spring as a recent world event that used technology to promote a political cause but claims that social media can play an important role locally, as well.
"I think social media can play a role in allowing municipal governments to interact with their constituents. It can allow for a more open, transparent and accessible municipal government." Desai cites Toronto Councillor Norm Kelly as a prime example of social media done well. He also admires Grey County for what he calls their forward thinking approach.
He admits though, that there are downsides. "Which is why I think it's imperative that municipalities adopt a social media policy before diving into that realm."
Between political activities, Desai makes room in his busy schedule to fulfill his duties as manager of Leela's Villa Inn in Flesherton, the friendly face behind the counter welcoming and serving guests to the restaurant and motel.
As a concerned business person and resident, Desai feels the most important issue currently facing the municipality is the proposed closure of Beavercrest Public School in Markdale. "Without a school, there will be no housing built. Without housing, there will be no increases to our tax base and the community would go on and die a slow death,” he said.
On a positive note, the recently announced development of 55 new homes by Paul Bonwick has Desai feeling optimistic. "Our new CAO has left no stone unturned in making this happen... I feel confident that this is the start of a boom in Markdale and in Grey Highlands."
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