Saying that 43-year old mortgage broker Corinna Smith-Gatcke leads a busy life would be an understatement.
She’s a wife, mother of two 9- and 12-year-old boys, one of Mortgage Advisor’s most successful agents with 110 closed transactions last year and three offices in Brockville, Kingston and Kemptville, an advocate in her community and a philanthropist.
And on October 22, she added a new role to her portfolio: Mayor of the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands in Eastern Ontario.
“If you asked me six months ago if I would be doing this, I would’ve said, no,” Corinna admits.
Not only was she successful in her inaugural run at local politics, she won by a landslide in unseating the incumbent.
Driven by a Need for Change
Corinna says she was compelled to enter public life after growing disenchanted with the ongoing scandals of the previous council, including sexual harassment allegations.
“We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the province. So it was hard as a resident, having grown up here and having lived here the majority of my life, to really be embarrassed of where I was from,” she said. Hoping—to no avail—that someone else would enter the mayoral race to provide a positive alternative, Corinna says she sat down with her husband to discuss the situation. “I had a long talk one night and I said, ‘I can’t believe that no one is running,’ and he just looked at me and said, ‘you need to run.’”
Corinna admits there were some negative reactions to her joining the race.
“Even though I had some experience in government, they were like, ‘you don’t know what you are doing. You run a business. Can you really give your time to this?’” she recalled. “The ironic part for me in all of that is the incumbent, the gentleman I ran against who was the mayor, he had a business. He had two kids and a wife, and nobody ever said that to him.”
Admitting it was a tough campaign as a first-time candidate, Corinna campaigned on investing in infrastructure to create jobs and boost the economy, as well as “effective, efficient local government.”
The Path to the Mayor’s Chair
Corinna is no stranger to politics. She explains that politics was always discussed around the family dinner table growing up on a farm outside the village of Lansdowne.
But it was a close family friend, the late Joanne Best, who Corinna says truly sparked her interest in politics and served as a mentor.
“She was the first female councillor in our township, and she was also the first female mayor ever elected in our township,” Corinna explains. “She instilled in me that anything is possible if you decide you want to do something.”
As a graduate of the Business Administration program at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Corinna got her first taste of politics as the student government president. She also went on to be the class valedictorian.
After graduating, she moved to Toronto and continued down the political path by taking a position on the political staff of Minister Bob Runciman, Ontario’s Solicitor General at the time in the Mike Harris Government.
Her Calling as a Mortgage Broker
After 18 months of serving as a political staffer, Corrina moved on to her true calling in the mortgage industry. She joined the marketing and sales team at Norlite Financial Services, which later merged with four other brokerages to become one of Canada’s first national mortgage brokerages.
Corinna says her job as the marketing and sales coordinator involved bringing former competitors together under one banner and assisting brokers to build their businesses in any way she could.
“A lot of what I did back then, I’ll need to do in the township now,” she says. “It’s about relationships and I think that’s part of the reason, or one of the main reasons, I got elected. Because I can build those relationships quickly with people.”
Borrowing on her Skills as a Broker
In many ways, there are similarities between a broker’s role and the role of a government leader, Corinna explains.
“As a broker, our sole job is to provide solutions to people for their problems,” she said, adding that mortgage clients seek out brokers who are knowledgeable and who are going to look out for their best interests.
The same can be said for local government representatives, whose job is to understand what’s going on in the area and have an understanding of the different rules and regulations that might affect the outcome.
“Your job is to provide solutions to those neighbors and friends and family who live in the community so that everybody can live a productive life, raise their family and have services and good roads and things like that,” Corinna says. “So for me this is an easy transition. I have always been involved and willing to lend a hand when needed. Your reputation precedes you, so if you go that extra mile for your clients, people know you’re going to go that extra mile for them as a township resident.”
Story was first featured in 2018, Issue 6 of the Mortgage Journal