After six years as the Mayor of Brooks, Barry Morishita has set his sights on provincial government.
Born in Brooks, Morishita’s family moved into the area in the late 40s, where they’ve largely stayed since.
“I’m half Japanese,” said Morishita. “My dad was actually born in an internment camp in Tashme, British Columbia in 1945. And his family moved to the area in the late 40s, maybe early 50s, and I'm born and raised here. I’ve lived here all my life except when I went away to school. And I spent some time on the coast with my grandparents in the summertime. So I spent most of them almost every day of my life in Alberta.”
Morishita graduated from high school in Rosemary, though he did attend Brooks Composite High School for a time and even went to school in Duchess during elementary. He attended both University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge for a time, but ultimately did not fish post secondary.
“I ended up getting together with some partners and buying a small auto part store at the time. And that's that was my foray into small business,” said Morishita. “I think you know, working and learning how to make sure you get paid and helping other people get paid is certainly part of having a good experience. I did some studying, I did take some courses through Athabasca at one time trying to continue that on. I've taken courses later on in my adult life here as a municipal elected official. So between life experience and those educational opportunities that come along, I think we're all constantly learning. I don't possess a post secondary degree, but I don't think the total experience has diminished by that.”
From a young age, Morishita always had an interest in the opportunity for leadership, something he originally credits to a teacher he had when he was 14.
“I had a social studies teacher who was very engaged in Canadian politics at the time, and I was very drawn to it,” said Morishita. “Just always interested in the possibilities of leadership and serving and, and how you could use government to make things better. You know, I was always drawn to that conversation. It started early for me. I wanted to serve. Yeah. People always think about serving in different things, but I was a hockey coach in my early adulthood. I joined the recreation board. I got involved in it fairly soon. And yeah, so I always wanted to be part of that opportunity to do things better, whether it be projects in a service club or like sit on a recreation board or whatever and always ended up eventually in the leadership roles within those organizations. It just seemed to be something that I thrived on and was passionate about.”
Morishita made his first foray into politics at the age of 30, when he first decided to run for the Brooks City Council, which he’s been a part of for 16 of the last 22 years, including his time as Mayor.
“It's been amazing. It's a job I truly love. I love doing it. I love doing the work every single day. Communities I've found are amazing, resilient, and resourceful entities,” said Morishita. “Communities are always intertwined and the possibilities of when you can work together and do things basically without boundary and so it's always been an incredible experience. Like there's always tough days and tough issues to deal with but at the end of it, it's been a wonderful experience and I would encourage everybody who has any, any commitment to community or, or things to have to consider trying it out at the least.”
“When I first got elected, I was young, and had sat on some boards and been part of service clubs in the area and decided that I wanted to run for Council and, and at the time, I remember being very considerate of the incumbents that were running, I called each and every one of them up the first time I ran and said, I'm not running against any of you,” said Morishita. “I always thank them for their service. I'm running to represent, you know, myself and my age and my situation, and that I think I can provide potentially good options for us to consider around that table. I want to offer that ability to the residents, and if the residents choose me, I'll be happy to serve. I think that was one thing that I've always been someone that struck me early in my career, that you have to stand for something that you want to run for something, you want to make things better.”
Over the past several years, Morishita said that he has been asked several times to consider moving into provincial politics, but until recently he has felt that he was happy where he was and had too much work to do on the municipal side to consider it. However, recently he has come to the decision to go on what he referred to as one last big adventure.
“It was an evolution, and it took a while and even the last for me to finally decide, you know, it was a pretty much a full year process of kind of looking at the possibilities. And then, you know, talking to dozens and dozens of people about it. And yeah, it was a it was a, it was a bit of a journey. But I'm glad that I've taken it and I'm really excited about the future in that place,” said Morishita. “
My two kids are in their 30s. My grandchildren are just about to start in kindergarten and I started hearing conversations that now they weren't sure they were going to stay in Alberta,” said Morishita. “As somebody who's lived there all my whole life and never thought about ever living anywhere else. It bothered me both from a personal view as I'm really lucky to have my children close, one lives right in the city here with me and one just two hour drive away. I'm really lucky to have my grandchildren so close to me, that's one thing. So on a personal basis, the thought of them leaving the province bothered me that way. But on a bigger basis, is the fact that they would consider leaving Alberta because of the current situations we're in. The way we're approaching policymaking, the decisions, how and and for what purpose are being made, was bothering me a lot. At the end of the day, I thought I fit well with the Alberta party's approach, which is principle based and, and the fact that we have to do our governance and run this province differently.”
Morishita described himself as an extremely hard worker when it comes to his civil service who always has time for constructive conversations, as well as an Edmonton Oilers fan. He looks forward to carrying all that he’s learned from Brooks into his work leading the Alberta Party.
“At the end of the day, we have to be true to ourselves and, and true to the communities that we're representing and so I hope to be able to carry that into provincial politics,” said Morishita.