Complete idiot! No idea! Hard working! Community minded! All part of the public view of a local Councillor. Why do we do it? What works, and what doesn’t?
The real mission is to lead and build a shared community vision for the future of our City. All the small tasks and projects are really just pieces in that jigsaw. Without the big picture and without shared commitment the daily life of a Councillor is just chasing a busy in-tray. When we get the community talking together, when residents share values, when we decide together what sort of place we want this to be, we can really make a lasting difference.
It’s not easy. There’ll be strong opinions and different facts. Pretty much everyone who stands for Council or who gets involved in community groups has something that they want to change or to prevent changing. There’ll be some degree of their need to control the situation or the outcome and sometimes in an adversarial style. Your challenge will be to bring these people together, to work with them all, even people you don’t really even like. Every significant achievement will be through working collaboratively with others.
What sort of skills should a Councillor have? Here’s my wish list.
- Interest in long-term direction of our local community
- Listening skills, prepared to listen more often than to tell
- Emotional intelligence
- Prepared to meet with the community, often
- At least one, and often two or three evenings a week, for meetings
- Able to read and understand a big weekly information pack
- Ability to think strategically about organisational purpose
- Effective decision-making skills (not as easy as it sounds)
- Understand the difference between individual and group decision-making
- Able to define and help build long-term values for self and the City
- Able to imagine and lead in new directions
- Able to discuss widely differing opinions respectfully
- Able to disagree agreeably
- Able to synthesise direction amidst complexity, conflicting values and objectives
- Understand the difference between management and leadership (Councillors have no executive authority at all, by law)
- Interest in a wide range of issues about our City
- Be prepared to assess my own biases and positions
- Ability to read and interpret financial reports
- Sense of humour
- Collaborative style
- Wide range of contacts and life experience
- An enquiring mind
- Risk assessment skills
- Open to continuous learning
GOOD TO HAVE
- Expertise in at least one relevant field, such as architecture, town planning, finance, environment, waste, law, social services, communications, psychology or science.
- Board experience
- Qualifications such as MBA or Australian Institute of Company Directors
- Prepared to respond with good grace and respect in all circumstances
The vital point is that a good Councillor can make a real difference to the present and future of our community. I hope to do this by representing Palmyra/ Melville/ Willagee ward, where I live, in Melville.
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