I asked myself what qualities are needed to be a successful Mayor
An ethical base and ability to take advice:
- The best mayors I have worked with have all had a strong moral compass. They apply this morality to all their decision making. Their moral compass is accompanied by an ethical base.
- If a mayor, or councillor for that matter, has any doubt about whether they have a conflict of interest they should always err on the side of caution. To stand aside and not participate in a vote, or debate.
- A mayor should avoid getting into the position of putting themselves, or the council, in an ethically bad position which could be challenged in court. To be able to take advice and to accept when to declare a conflict of interest is essential.
- Legal and accounting advice is of fundamental importance because these professions will often protect the mayor, and the institution they lead, from making mistakes and protect everyone from legal challenge.
- A mayor should never enter a debate and declare where they stand on an issue before a vote. This is pre-determination and again places the whole council in a potential position of legal challenge.
- A mayor should not be a front for others who are setting political games for the city to comply with. This can lead to instability and suspicion at the council table.
The ability to chair, to have read briefing papers, and to encourage collaborative decision making:
- A mayor is the chair of the council, and numerous other, meetings. The ability to encourage those with differing opinions to respect others who may not agree is essential.
- A mayor sets the tone for the council table which will encourage the institution bureaucracy to follow suit.
- All a mayor has is the power of moral persuasion. They are one vote at a table. Every vote is different. Every issue is different. Westminster politics has no place at the council table. Promoting an “A” and a “B” team is a fundamental mistake. A mayor must be able to work with people from all sorts of different political positions.
- A mayor must have the ability to read volumes of documents and to analyse them and convert them into understandable comments to convey to the essence of issues to the public.
The ability to encourage active participation by large sections of the city:
- A mayor cannot be accountable to just some sections of society. A good mayor must never put themselves in a position where they “owe” sectors a favour.
- This city is an interesting mix of sets and subsets of people. Right throughout our community. Somebody you meet in a choir often turns out to be an activist in an environmental group, or some other interest. Somebody who is into old cars may also have amazing links into cultural groups. On and on it goes. The challenge for a mayor is to tap into all city networks, to know where they are and to support and empower them and to encourage the council institution to work with them.
- This city is very strong on social justice issues. A mayor must understand the kaupapa of the many elements of social justice issues. Many business leaders quietly support the city mission, or housing initiatives, or environmental issues or whatever they choose to be involved with. Often, they like to do this anonymously, but they will be a great source of advice and connections. Many groups working with those who are suffering for a whole lot of reasons will willingly give you advice and take you to meet people that they know who are quietly working on the ground who seek no recognition other than resources for those they serve.
- Young people are our future. A good mayor welcomes the participation and ideas of our younger citizens and supports the institution to embrace them.
- A strong relationship with mana whenua is essential for a mayor.
To be a good listener:
- A good mayor must be prepared to welcome honest feedback on issues the council is facing.
- The current council bureaucracy has, for some reason, cut themselves off from outside advice and support from individuals for a range of professions.
- This is sad as some of the best advice I received was from individuals who freely gave of their time as their commitment was to ensure that this city thrived, and I often sat them down with the appropriate staff involved. They were generally not looking for payment. They were looking for this to become a better place.
- Having listened, taken advice, and thought about it a good mayor will convert the ideas into workable solutions for the council table to adopt.
To manage the relationship with the CEO properly:
- A good mayor must keep a professional relationship with the CEO. They should have a good working relationship but at the end of the day the CEO is the only employee of the Council.
- To be a credible advocate for the city locally, nationally, and internationally:
- A good mayor will represent the city regionally, nationally and internationally by using strong arguments and passion. They should have connections everywhere in NZ and around the world which will lead the city to new innovative places.
- The relationship between central and local government is currently broken. It will take an eloquent mayor to work on healing this current position. The mayor must be able to work with whoever is in power in parliament and clearly enunciate the interests of this city, and as the leader of the largest city in Te Wai Pounamu, the whole island from time to time.
- A modern mayor will grasp the challenges of global warming and lead the population to accept and plan properly for it.
To be able to perform in the theatre of public life:
- Politics is an art form. It’s about the power of persuasion. It’s about oratory and speech making. It’s about the ability to debate. It’s about the responsible use of power for the benefit of population. However, you seldom have real friends in politics. In fact in the 48 years I have been involved in politics very few people I worked with are real mates. You have political acquaintances. You are amongst a fluid network of people who are useful to you sometimes and you to them other times. Sometimes you are used by others to suit their political desires to manage power. Sometimes it’s the other way around.
Application of the above 7 tests:
When I applied these tests which have evolved from my experience, and that of others, David Meates is head and shoulders in front of his opponent. His leadership skills were demonstrated as he led the largest employer in this city, as they supported us all in times of strife as we experienced earthquakes and their after effects. It was demonstrated again after the mosque massacres.
David’s modest, but strong, leadership is precisely what this city needs to move us beyond our last 11 years. He will bring a new deep listening style to the council table and turn the institution outwards to serve our community with his considerable servant leader style.
That’s why when my voting papers arrived on Friday, I ticked the box beside his name. I felt good inside after I had done it. That was my one vote.