Week 9: Aileen McKenzie

How long have you been a councillor? 
4 years

What prompted you to stand for election? 
I’ve always wanted to be able to help people, and with some encouragement from colleagues I put myself forward.

Describe your average week as a Councillor. 
Most weeks consist of a combination of attending committee meetings in the council chambers, dealing with casework and enquiries from constituents and attending events in the community.

How does being a Councillor fit in with your other responsibilities and commitments (such as children / caring responsibilities)?
It can be difficult as a parent, especially when a lot of meetings and events take place in the evenings and over the weekend, but this is something COSLA is working to address to make being elected a councillor more compatible with family life.

What do you find most rewarding about the role?
The most definite rewarding part of the role is being able to help someone with an issue they have ben experiencing, and if you can fix that for them and make their quality of life better it is the best feeling in the world.

And the most challenging? 
I think the most challenging is being a young(ish) woman in politics.  It can be very intimidating going into meeting with older men in suits who have a lot more experience than you, and I had to work very hard on my self-esteem and confidence.

What has been your greatest achievement as Councillor? 
During lockdown I set up an online forum for young people and adolescents who were struggling with their mental health.  They were able to log on to an online meeting and meet peers going through the same issues and I was able to signpost them to partner or third sector organisations.  Even just talking with each other seemed to lift their moods and loneliness and the meetings became fun.

Tell us one aspect about the job that people might not know / find surprising? 
There is always something new to learn, even when you have been elected for many years you still don’t know everything.

What support is available to possible candidates? 
Some political parties offer a mentoring or buddy scheme.

Why is greater representation in local government important? 
Elected representatives should always be representative of the people they represent. It is essential that more protective characteristics come forward to stand and are elected as better decisions are made when there are diverse voices around the table, and those most vulnerable in society must have a voice to advocate for them.

What advice would you give to someone considering standing for elected office in their local area? 
Speak to your local elected members first, ask if they would be willing to let you shadow them for a few days, and if you think you can do it then go for it!

And finally, who is your role model and why? 
I would have to say Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor.  He brought in measures like Working and Child Tax credits that really helped working single mums like myself and made the quality of my and my child’s life better.  It inspired me to want to do the same thing for other people who were struggling, and make sure there was always someone willing to help those who needed it.