From his humble beginnings as a 13-year-old immigrant from Santa Maria, Azores, to a sergeant in the Waterloo Regional Police force, all the way to Cambridge City Councillor, Frank Monteiro, has never been one to shy away from a challenge. No, in fact shy is not a word you would ever use to describe the verbose councillor from Ward 7. Always quick to challenge the status-quo and never afraid to stand-up for the little guy, Monteiro exemplifies what a good city councillor should be.
For those people fortunate enough to be born in Canada, it’s hard to imagine being dropped in a foreign country at such a young age, not being able to speak the language and where your only friends are your siblings. And though these challenges weren’t unique to the Monteiro family, as thousands of Portuguese families now settled in Cambridge are sure to attest to, how he withstood them was. The challenges that his and countless other immigrant families endured at that time are what made them strong and helped build the fabric of what is now Cambridge.
The Monteiro family emigrated here on April 10, 1966 and Frank was immediately confronted with those challenges, but instead of feeling sorry for himself, he took the opportunities his new home offered and made a great life for not only himself and his family, but his community at large. But it wasn’t easy, those initial first years in Cambridge.
“Those first two years I hated Canada, I begged my dad to go back home. I couldn’t speak English, I couldn’t skate or play baseball, all I could do was kick a soccer ball and at that time no one was playing soccer,” said Monteiro, chuckling as he describes his childhood.
Fortunately for him, and the city of Cambridge, he stuck it out and went on to Conestoga College where he learned to be an architectural draftsman and went to work for a local architect for four years. But sitting behind a desk was not the life for him. It was after seeing a newspaper ad for the Walkerton Police force, which was looking for recruits, that he thought that that would be something he would like to do with his life. He approached a local staff sergeant in charge of hiring and mentioned his desire to become an officer, the staff sergeant told him that because of his ability to speak two languages and given the large Portuguese community that Cambridge embodies, that he would be an excellent candidate for Waterloo Regional Police. After a long application procedure, he was accepted into the force and he became the first Portuguese police officer in Ontario in 1975.
“I was in the police force for 35 years, at 30 years I could have retired, but I was that type of person that has never been out of a job since I was 17-years-old and I thought, what am I going to do?” he said. “I panicked.”
Luckily, someone planted the seed in his mind that he should attempt running for political office. The initial idea was for him to run for the Liberal Party in the provincial elections, but Monteiro felt he would be better suited and able to help those in the community if he ran for local council.
It was shortly after that, that Mayor Doug Craig, approached him saying, “He would make an excellent councillor, since he knew so many people throughout the city.” He took the mayors words to heart and decided that he would in fact run for the vacant seat in Ward 7. After retiring on June 18, 2010 he took a short vacation and came back and started campaigning for the Southeast Ward in Galt, where Monteiro had grown up.
He was pleasantly surprised when he won by 63.5 per cent of the vote. But the work didn’t end there, since being elected and working tirelessly to represent the people of Ward 7, as well as anyone in the city who comes to him for help, Monteiro said that he challenges any councillor to beat his attendance record, saying that he “works on average over four to five hours a day, every day.” He recently took a few days off to complete some home renovations and returned to an inbox overflowing with emails from people looking for him to address their problems.
“Being one of the only Portuguese municipal politicians in Ontario, I get called to represent the Portuguese community in many events around the area, such as Portugal Day in Toronto and in other nearby communities such as Hamilton and Leamington and I’m more than happy to help,” he said. “There are not too many Portuguese politicians, but I’m hoping to change that, we have such a big Portuguese community here in Cambridge, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have a more prominent voice in politics.”
Whether it’s battling for a casino in town, fighting for the dam in Preston, Monteiro is always at the heart of the debates at city hall, never afraid to let his opinion be known and always representing the person who otherwise has no voice. Perhaps it’s all those years as a police officer that make him want to help the “little guy” or it could be just good upbringing but as for the Portuguese community, we like to think he’s just a good representation of ourselves.
Tags: Cambridge City Councillor, Conestoga College, family, Frank Monteiro, friends, Galt, home, Liberal Party, Mayor Doug Craig, new, Santa Maria, something, Toronto, voice, Walkerton Police, Waterloo Regional Police, work, young