The moment Raechelle Devereaux decided she wanted to run for office happened while running along the banks of the Speed River.
Devereaux said she was thinking about some of the innovative solutions being put forward by Guelph to solve local issues, but were not gaining traction on getting provincial support.
“As I'm running along, I thought, 'I want to work in government.' I want to be the change that I want my community to experience and I want to bring my connected ideas to a broader scale, and that Guelph is at the table where investment, decision and policy happen," said Devereaux.
Now, Devereaux and her campaign team occupy a storefront along Carden Street. Inside the campaign office are photos of Devereaux while canvassing, political signs and a couple drawings made by her nine-year-old daughter, Emelia.
“She drew me, ‘Power Girl,’ which I do love a fishnet, so I feel like it’s me,” Devereaux said about one of the drawings.
Devereaux said her three kids love being at the campaign office, and are often helping by assembling signs or speaking with residents.
"They're super proud," said Devereaux, "they've got some hesitations, like if I'm elected, I will probably live in Toronto Sunday to Thursday, so we've talked about that, and I always say, 'Let's just know that and let that be a tomorrow issue, because we don't want to spend a lot of time on something we don't know yet.'
“On June the 3rd, I could be Guelph’s next MPP or on June 3rd, I could be a mom, Raechelle, who did something really courageous and showed up for my community.”
Devereaux came to Guelph in 1996 to study at the University of Guelph. Through studying and working part-time, she became involved in the community.
“I loved Guelph from the moment that I arrived,” said Devereaux, who was raised on a farm in Ayton, Ont.
In 2002, Devereaux decided to stay in Guelph and accepted a job at Family & Children's Services of Guelph and Centre Wellington. She went on to secure a student placement with Guelph Community Health Centre while pursuing a master's degree in social work in 2009, eventually becoming chief executive officer.
Focusing on drug policy, Devereaux said she saw how Guelph residents could work together to understand all aspects of complex challenges and come up with different solutions.
"When we seek to understand something, it means we have to stay curious for much longer than we’re used to, and I’m known for being curious and staying in a state of curiosity," said Devereaux.
Curious about what it would be like to run for an elected office, Devereaux began to meet with local politicians to learn about their experiences campaigning. In March 2021, she said the provincial Liberal Party gave her a call and asked if she would run.
“I was both ecstatic and a little bit scared, a little bit hesitant, but scared is fine. It’s a big step, it’s a big choice to make to run for public office," said Devereaux, who is running for the first time.
As a single mother of three children, she said she needed to check with her children's father, Steve, to talk about how to keep their children a priority if she ran, and speak with her bank before agreeing to accept the nomination.
“I needed to meet with my bank to see if it was financially feasible for me to enter into this domain," said Devereaux, mentioning not having the financial situation to run can be a reason why some women choose not to run for office.
Besides her campaign team, Devereaux also has a team of people supporting her outside of the campaign, including her sister, friends and father, who also help care for her two dogs and two cats.
"He's wonderful," Devereaux said about her dad. “My dad helps get the kids where they need to go, helps me to get supper on the table and really makes sure my household continues to operate,” said Devereaux.
When out canvassing, Devereaux said she has really enjoyed meeting people to discuss their concerns. She notes it was important for her to make people feel seen, heard and understood.
"It's one of the things that I love doing and I'm actually good at is spending time with people to really understand their perspective through deep listening and dialogue," said Devereaux. “And people weren’t expecting that.”
Devereaux said she has also experienced one incident of online sexual harassment in October 2021. She said police took the matter seriously and charges were laid.
Despite this one incident, Devereaux said she has also received a lot of encouragement and support from women within the community, which makes her feel incredible.
“There are women who are in their early retirement and I come to the door and they say, ‘We’ve been waiting for you,’ and ‘I’ve heard about you,’ and ‘I’m so proud of you,’” Devereaux said about these women. “In those moments, these women just know through a gender lens, that certain things are harder, and we need that solidarity and connection and support.”
Looking back, Devereaux said she has no regrets about her campaign.
"There is no loss in being with your community in a critical time such as this, I wouldn't change this experience for the world."