Former Mayor, Mary Bourke has something to say about local govt elections

Mary Bourke was elected as the first female mayor for the South Taranaki District and served five terms as Mayor from 1992, before choosing not to seek re-election in 2007.

She was nominated and accepted a Queens Service Order in 2009 and is now self-employed as a freelance facilitator and is passionate about unlocking the wisdom of groups and communities who can (if allowed) design the best solutions for their own problems.

Now that the initial flurry has occurred and nominations for Local Government elections have closed, she’s keen to share some thoughts.

Local Government is the last opportunity communities have to be in charge of influencing how they are managed; and for that reason, it’s important that people actually vote. Thinking carefully about how to vote is also important.

My mother used to talk about the “vagaries” of the democratic process; and I still do. The top three hits on Dr Google tell me that “vagaries” of democracy are alive and well in Sierra Leone. I suspect they are alive and well much closer to home.

Much has been said recently about the value of “diversity” on governing bodies. Diversity means having a good mix of gender, race, age, political leanings, real life experience (as opposed to Local Government experience), and common sense. Local Authorities are governing bodies and therefore not exempt from the value that recognising and encouraging diversity can bring. Sadly – Local Government is flagging in the credibility stakes. This just may be because we as electors have failed to recognise the value that diversity can bring.

Albert Einstein is famously recognised for observing that “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results”. We do this in Local Government over and over again. We elect – (and re-elect) people who have delivered mediocrity for no other reason than because we recognise their name. Further; we have this misguided view that somebody with experience in Local Government has more to offer than somebody with none.

What is important is that candidates have a view and are prepared to be clear about that. It is impossible for an elected representative to please all of the people all of the time and my experience is that those who try are not that effective. Equally voters should recognise that they won’t be pleased all of the time with the decisions their preferred candidate make on their behalf. The trick lies in evaluating the whole package.

If you are thinking energy, imagination, clear views, (honesty) and consistency are values you would like to underpin the decisions that these people will make on your behalf then put those attributes ahead of experience.

If you seek to observe as your district subsides slowly into the mire – then vote for the people who say “Yes” and are anxious to please.

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