Notes from a new Councillor: The beginning

I was elected as Oxfordshire County Councillor in the May elections, my first time ever being elected to public office. What a whirlwind the first two months have been! Complicated by the small matter of being a parliamentary candidate in the GE for the first month of being County Councillor.

Would I recommend being a councillor? Yes!

For any of you out there thinking about putting yourself forward for next May’s local elections, do have a go. I have always felt passionately that politics is about a range of people getting involved, with various backgrounds and expertise to bring to the role. I’m a musician – and yes, we need more politicians from the arts. We need people of all ages and interests to take part in order to have true representation in democratic decision making.

What’s great about the job is the difference you can make in people’s lives. One of my first successes was supporting a family who had made an application for their child’s Special Educational Needs placement back in November. They still hadn’t heard back by June where their child would be starting school in September 2017. I got onto the case, made a phone call, sent some emails, and found out what was holding up the situation. It was sorted, and the family was given their answer, within a week of my asking. That has made a huge difference to this family. They can now enjoy the summer holidays with the assurance of knowing where their child is going to school in September.

I know all situations are not easily sorted – I am currently working on restoring bus services in several of the local villages. I’m having to approach the problem from several different angles, and it will take time. But I’ve got stuck in, and have already met with key decision makers and attended several community transport meetings.

I’ve also put my first question in to County Council Cabinet, asking whether cutting bus subsidies was a false economy. Surely connecting communities is what we want to do, not increase isolation? Surely taking people out of cars and giving them good bus routes is better for the environment? Surely increasing young people’s independence by providing bus services for college and apprenticeships is better than parents forever being taxi services? The list goes on.

So I’m loving the job, my only complaint being there is not enough time to tackle all the issues I’d like to address. I would encourage all of you out there to get in touch with your local party and get approved as a candidate for the May 2018 local elections. It’s a great way to give back, take part, and build the fairer society we all are working towards.

* Kirsten Johnson is a Fellow of the Incorporated Society of Musicians. She is an Oxfordshire County Councillor and Day Editor for Lib Dem Voice.

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11 Comments

  • Kirsten,
    Many congratulations on your success and accept my admiration for your efforts for your community. Very well done.

  • jayne Mansfield 11th Aug '17 - 8:24pm

    What a wonderfully inspiring post. It is so lovely to read of someone who is loving the act of giving.

    I am not religious, but I did work as a volunteer with the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta. And when things seemed to be overwhelming, I concentrated on Mother Theresa’s words-

    ‘ We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean, but if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.’

    There is never enough time to tackle all the things that one wants to tackle. I found that the above quote helped me cope with the frustrating reality of that.

    Congratulations on your election. How wonderful it must feel to know that you have already made a difference to someone’s life.

  • jayne Mansfield 11th Aug '17 - 8:37pm

    OOPs-
    Mother Theresa’s nuns were of course the Missionaries of Charity, although I always referred to them individually as Sister. The Sisters of Charity are actually a different order.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Aug '17 - 8:51am

    Congratulations.

    Out of interest before being elected were you a member of ALDC? If not, are you one now?

  • Richard Fagence 12th Aug '17 - 9:59am

    Kirsten is exactly the sort of county councillor people deserve but very seldom get. Her constituents are very fortunate and will undoubtedly grow in their appreciation of her many talents in the coming years.

  • Kirsten Johnson 12th Aug '17 - 11:33am

    Thank you all for reading. Yes, Bill, I joined ALDC several years ago when I became a parliamentary candidate. I highly recommend membership to all activists, not just councillors.

    Thank you, Jayne, for reminding me of this quote from Mother Theresa, one I will definitely keep in mind as I tackle all the issues coming in.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Aug '17 - 1:40pm

    K,
    Good news and a good recommendation too.
    B

  • Gordon Lishman 12th Aug '17 - 9:22pm

    Congratulations, Kirsten.

    You’ve convinced me – I’ll give it a try next May.

    The next step, after helping to solve people’s problems and getting elected, is the big one: how do you help people to create the habits and institutions which help them really to take power for themselves?

  • Jackiecharlton 13th Aug '17 - 10:14pm

    Like you I became a County Councillor for the first time in May Also recognise the whirlwind bit too and although not a candidate in GE did a lot of canvassing chaired an emergency selection panel interviewing and selecting a candidate too. It was a strange few weeks. I have also had to negotiate my way through doing the job and being deaf. Not so easy when every seems to insist on using the phone but with lots of very supportive staff and understanding constituents it has been made very much easier. And like you I would urge anyone who is thinking of taking on this role, just do it. It really does have many rewards and it gets the Lib Dem brand out there in the thick of it.

  • Kirsten Johnson 23rd Aug '17 - 9:45pm

    Gordon, well done! Jackie, I greatly sympathise with the roller-coaster you’ve been on as a new councillor. Thank you for encouraging others to come forward. Congratulations on your new role!

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