MP Irek Kusmierczyk — Leading A Political Path
When I met Irek Kusmierczyk he was organizing the First Robotics competitions to encourage youth into STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). He impressed me with his intelligence, integrity, follow-through, ability to build partnerships, self-less service and incredible passion for politics.
After working on the Herb Gray Parkway (species-at-risk remediation) and joining WEtech Alliance, he served as a City of Windsor Councillor (Ward 7) for over six years.
Kusmierczyk, our Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh was recently appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, which is at the centre of the government response and support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His education began with a combined Bachelor of Journalism/History at Carleton University in Ottawa.
“I wanted to be the next great foreign correspondent like Anna Maria Tremonti,” he recalls. “One summer working at a newspaper in Poland, I walked 700 km in 18 days on a pilgrimage through the region,” adding “Villagers took us in or let us sleep in their barn.”
Next he completed an MSc degree at the London School of Economics (UK) followed by an MA degree at the Jagiellonian University (Poland) on a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship. Kusmierczyk worked for a year at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw during the political reunification of Europe.
Finally, he earned his PhD in Political Science from Vanderbilt University (United States) in 2010. His dissertation focused on cross-border cooperation between governments around the Great Lakes basin.
When I asked where his passion to serve came from, his answer reflected the values influenced by Rotary.
“I’ve been lucky to be part of great teams that work hard and are driven by service above self,” he expresses. “Whether building a community garden, helping a company grow or drafting good policy. Nothing beats the feeling of being part of a good team.”
Kusmierczyk first became interested in politics when his family emigrated from Poland to Canada in 1983 as political refugees. His father was active in the Solidarity Trade Union fighting for the rights of others.
After his father was imprisoned, he reveals, “Like bread and butter, politics was never far from the kitchen table,” adding, “My parents had the courage to leave everything to come to Canada to give us a good education and life.”
He is proud of their commitment to community service.“My family always felt this powerful need to give back to Canada for opening the door and providing us safe harbour,” he states.
Representing Canadians is a fitting way to honour his parents.
His leadership advice?
“It’s a cliché, but you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” he replies.
Kusmierczyk believes part of success is accepting setbacks as essential to growth. He encourages people to “Jump in — you’ll learn how to swim very quickly, and it’s incredibly gratifying once you see that your work is helping residents and improving quality of life in your community.”
Communication, listening and being open and transparent with residents is essential, according to Kusmierczyk.
As for balancing his work and home life with his wife Shauna, a hospital Nurse Practitioner, who also works part-time in long-term care and flies to Pelee Island to run clinics, he had this to say: “We’ve learned to appreciate the little things like cooking together or sitting outside with a coffee. Keeping busy helps our time apart and our Constituency Office team is passionate about helping our community. I am always talking to residents, listening to concerns, whether in Ottawa or at home.”
The future is bright for Kusmierczyk, although he says he doesn’t focus too far ahead and tries to make the most of each day.
He wraps up our interview with an old adage: “Man makes plans and God smiles.”
Keep up with Irek and his team on Facebook.
Sherrilynn Colley-Vegh is an award winning leadership consultant and former Director of Leadership Windsor/Essex, Principal, Chief Communications Officer and business owner with over 30 years of experience in education, administration, mentoring, consulting and community leadership. If you know a leader in the community to profile here in this column, please send an email to: [email protected]