One day after his historic victory, Calgary mayor-elect Naheed Nenshi says he hopes his unlikely election is an inspiration to Canadians.

"I will say today that I hope that every kid who woke up in this city this morning, and their parents showed them the newspaper or flipped on the TV, that every kid regardless of their ethnicity, of their income or what neighbourhood they live in, saw that and went, ‘Wow, in this great country and in this great city I can be anything,'" Nenshi told CTV's Power Play Tuesday evening.

Nenshi, a 38-year-old academic, surprised many observers by winning a tough three-way battle in what is thought of as Canada's most conservative city.

He is the first visible minority to become mayor of Calgary and the first Muslim to hold the top political office in a major Canadian city.

Nenshi was born in Toronto to immigrant parents from Tanzania. His family moved to Calgary when he was young.

Nenshi said issues of faith and race were never a factor in the campaign except for a few mentions in the media. But he said he never shied away from who he is.

"The colour of my skin, my faith, the neighbourhood I grew up in, my education, my experiences, my ideas, they're all part of this crazy mix called Naheed and all part of this crazy mix called Calgary," Nenshi said.

Nenshi said his election is less a sign that Calgary's image of cowboys and conservatives is changing and more an indication of the diverse city it has always been.

"Don't get me wrong -- I own several cowboy hats, and I think I look pretty good in them for 10 days of the year. But in reality, this is a reflection of what Calgary has always been," Nenshi said.

"I am thrilled that now the national and international media are turning their sights to this city and seeing it for what it really is: a wonderfully diverse place where there's boundless opportunity, where nobody cares what your last name is, nobody cares who your daddy was. They only care about your merit and I think that says something great about this city."

Nenshi was president of the student union when he attended the University of Calgary and earned a master's degree in public policy at Harvard University.

He spent a number of years in business consulting before moving on to run his own non-profit. His last job was as a professor at Mount Royal University.

Nenshi defeated veteran alderman Ric McIver and former CTV Calgary news anchor Barb Higgins in a very close contest on Monday.

Nenshi said he ran a non-traditional campaign, both offline and online. He and his campaign staff decided very early on to focus on content in the form of very detailed policy announcements, as well as to get out and meet Calgarians "where they live," meeting them in their homes, churches, community centres and parks.

He also used social media to connect with the ever-growing number of people who "live online."

"We were able to reach those people online not as a press release format, but to have authentic dialogue with them using technology and tools," Nenshi said. "And the really exciting thing that I think stymied all the critics and surprised people was that it was relatively easy, once you get people fired up online, to change that activism into the offline world. And I think that's where we saw amazing success."

Nenshi sold himself as an outsider to Calgary city politics, promising to clean up a "secretive city hall."

Many of his supporters began wearing purple, leading his team to become known as the "Purple Revolution."

Nenshi was recently described in a local Calgary newspaper as a "policy wonk" and even "dorky."

"I spent the day with that reporter and I want to know what I did that was dorky," he told CTV News Channel earlier Tuesday while laughing.

Nenshi said that despite spending between one-quarter and one-third what his opponents spent on their campaigns, voters responded to "a positive message" about the "great good that this city council can do."