Being of Service – the Role of Mayor
Jackie Stokes and Sharon McCarney made time for us online the other day to talk about their roles as Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Fishguard and Goodwick.
Taking over from Jordan Ryan, who has served the community in the role for the past two years, Jackie told us that the Mayor has responsibility for chairing most council meetings and is the public face of the town they represent. A full council meeting, where major issues are discussed and resolved, is held each month, except for August.
There are also four committees – Finance, Governance, Planning and Events – though the Mayor is not necessarily chair of all.
Jackie said: “Unfortunately, one of our biggest events, the annual Community Awards has had to be postponed this year because of the pandemic but will take place as soon as possible. The voting took place earlier this year, the winners are known to us, the trophies are ready and the ceremony will take place when it is deemed safe to do so.”
The two roles involve at least five meetings a month, now being conducted online, and some lasting up to one-and-a-half hours. Both Jackie and Sharon are also involved in the Development Trust Project, spearheaded by Goodwick’s County Councillor Kevin Doolin, focusing on regeneration. The feasibility study is in its final stages.
It’s quite a workload and Sharon explained that the role of the Deputy Mayor is to deputise at meetings and events when the Mayor is not available and to assist the Mayor when necessary.
That sounds like a big responsibility and I am interested to know what motivates a person to take on these roles.
Both Jackie and Sharon love the Fishguard and Goodwick area and are committed to bringing out the best of this beautiful part of Pembrokeshire.
Sharon grew up here and remembers more prosperous times for the area. “In my younger days we had the Slimma factory and the RNAD [Royal Navy Armaments Depot] at Trecwn. At least twice as many people were employed at the harbour, and there were a number of family-run shops, some of which still exist. It was never what we would call an entrepreneurial place, but it was thriving. Now with all of that industry gone, tourism has become especially important to the area.”
Jackie agreed: “We are living in very difficult times. We are all constrained by the pandemic which has affected the tourism that the area has come to rely upon. The closure of the Fishguard Bay is a great loss, and of course, there will be no cruise ships this year. On the other hand, the new road is nearly finished, and the cannon is coming back to Fishguard Square. The community has really come together to support one another and some new community groups were formed specifically to help with the problems caused by the pandemic.
“F&G Mutual Aid groups help with shopping, fetching medication and postal needs for those unable to go out. F&G Food Support sources free food for those in need, often caused by a long delay in receiving benefits. These two groups have done some amazing work for our towns and I cannot thank them enough. We want to see the two towns prosper and we need to find ways to make that happen.”
It sounds as though there are plans afoot in these unprecedented times.
Both women nodded. There are definitely good things in the pipeline, not least their intention to focus on community groups, which both women have been involved with for some time, so we should watch this space for future developments.
I asked how Jackie became Mayor.
She said: “I joined the council in 2017 because I wanted to serve the community. I had moved here in 2008, left in 2011 but came back in 2016 because I loved it here. I became the Deputy Mayor to support Councillor Ryan during his second term as Mayor, knowing that it could happen that I would become Mayor. It is usually the Deputy who takes over the role after a year, but they must still be officially elected by the council, and one has to be on the council for at least 18 months to apply for either role.”
Sharon said: “It’s impossible to predict how things will unfold because of the virus but, whatever happens, we are both committed to giving something back to the two towns.”
And in such unprecedented times such a commitment is what we all need to hear.