3 min

Ducking bullets

Fearless dyke deputy mayor takes on all comers

GOOD DECISIONS. Richmond Hill's Janet Mabley has decided to live her life openly and happily. Credit: Xtra files

The deputy mayor of Richmond Hill has plenty of reasons to look over her shoulder.

Janet Mabley claims she was once shot at in a parking lot – possibly by angry business owners. A while back, there were bomb threats. And she says she’s being stalked.

But she’s not afraid of her politics, or of being out.

“I don’t think my sexuality is a political issue,” says Mabley. “I haven’t announced it, but I’m very open. My partner and I go to functions and events together. We don’t hide anything.”

And she says she hasn’t had many problems (despite a straight past that might confuse some – she’s 44, and born and raised in Richmond Hill).

She’s been involved with another woman for six years. Her partner has three young children who live with them half of the time, and with their father the other half.

Mabley endures her partner’s ex trying to get his wife back. “He has every intention of having his wife back. He believes he can have her back if I am out of the picture.”

Mabley also has children, both of them adult. She was married for almost 24 years.

“I had a wonderful marriage. I have nothing bad to say about it. I knew I was gay many years ago… and it wasn’t fair to him. It was like sister and brother for me. He’s a good-looking man, a smart man, and he should get on with his life. We were in love, and I didn’t do this lightly. But it wasn’t fair to him – or to me.”

Mabley came out, but didn’t make a big deal about it. She makes a point of saying she doesn’t “shove her relationship” down anyone’s throat. She attends Toronto Pride, though “some of the antics don’t represent me.”

And this year, she’s thinking of asking Richmond Hill’s city council to proclaim Pride.

Mabley first held public office in 1985, as a trustee at the York Region Public School Board. Three years later she was elected (then re-elected) to city council. In 1994, she made regional council, and in 1997 became deputy mayor.

But she may have more prominence in Richmond Hill for her seven-year fight to close down two strip clubs – at some risk to herself and family. “I was shot at but it is difficult to prove who did it. The bullet shattered the back window and the side window of my car.”

The battle went all the way up to the Ontario Court Of Appeal, but she won. “This was because of drugs and prostitution. I have nothing against strip clubs, they are legal.

“The problem was there was a lot of prostitution, girls were soliciting in the street, residents complained about fighting, guys pissing on lawns, it was just ridiculous.”

She represented herself. “I’m written up in law books. I was really lucky and really stupid, and I just made the right moves at the right time. I was determined and I knew the case.”

Mabley believes in being a role model – and is going to run for mayor in the November 2000 elections.

“I’m not perfect, but being out and being deputy mayor shows younger people that it’s okay to be yourself. It’s important to be out because there is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Mabley says she works 60 to 80 hours a week and is involved with more than 20 committees, including the York Region Abuse Program for molested kids and vice-chair of the Homeless Task Force Of York Region.

“Richmond Hill is the fastest growing municipality in Canada,” Mabley says. “And we haven’t raised the taxes for eight years. The money is there, but the vacancy rates are at zero. Even with shelter allowances, there is no place to put people.”

Mabley is also struggling to protect the kettle lakes formed by melted glaciers. These lakes are not fed by any other waters. “Developing anything too close to one of these lakes would throw them off balance and kill them. I want to keep them purest and in their most natural state.”

Being so busy with her career and with her relationship leaves Mabley little time for things she used to love, like field hockey, baseball and coaching boys’ hockey teams. Finding time for a good lobster and bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, or a good history book is a treat.

She faces the sparsity of sleep with good humour and happiness that she is living her true identity. “I like what I do, and I’m good at what I do,” she says. “And I’m comfortable being out, so I advise others to be true to yourself, to be honest with yourself. I’m much happier than I have been in years and years.

“It might be cliché, but there’s nothing queer about loving someone.”