Our final pre-election Q&A is with first-time councillor Melanie Mason.
How long had you lived on Bowen before running for council? A year.
Why did you run? Just after we moved Bowen lost ferry runs and there were fare increases. We had made our decision to live on Bowen around both of those issues. So I got involved on the transportation front.
At the time there was concern about public discourse and it got me intrigued about local politics.
Also, when I ran I was a renter and my kids were still three and six. So don’t let anybody else say they don’t have time to run because they have small children.
How has being on council shaped your Bowen experience? It’s made me aware of the myriad of issues facing small communities like ours and the challenge to meet the growing need for improved infrastructure. We all would like a community centre, we all want a pool, but the real challenge is figuring out how you’re going to pay for it.
It also made me keenly aware of just how much is done by volunteers on-island. A lot of the big projects, the bike park, the movement for a medical clinic are run by volunteers. Without them, this island really doesn’t tick.
Why is important for younger people to be a part of council? Diversity. I’m the youngest person on council by about 20 years I think.
Why is it important for people new(er) to Bowen be a part of council? New ideas and new perspectives. Sometimes new people don’t bring in perceived baggage as well. Fresh faces bring fresh enthusiasm and I think for a council like ours that’s not a bad thing.
You worked on Bowen’s first ever transportation plan – what (for you personally) went into getting that done? Persistence, determination and confidence we were going to get it done.
That was a successful project because we did lots of public engagement, had great staff and a great working group backed by a solid committee.
Making sure we get really good public engagement at the right time in a project is really important. If it comes in too late and people don’t feel that they can have input, then it’s really hard to carry the community with you. I think we might be seeing that with lot 1.
What characteristics would you like to see in aspiring councillors?
Passion, enthusiasm, patience, open mindedness and willingness to listen.
What do you wish you’d known before running? The importance of positive and strong leadership.
Also, the need for access to flexible and affordable childcare. That’s been one of my biggest challenges. We have meetings that happen all different times of the day. I have begged, borrowed and stolen childcare for four years.