The next local government elections are on 19 March 2016.
If you want to be a serious candidate for Redland City Mayor or councillor, you should be planning your campaign right now.
There are lots of questions to be considered before seeking elected office. In this report Redlands2030 provides some information that may help anyone who is interested to put their name forward.
Why become an elected offical?
There are any number of reasons that you might have for wanting to be elected as a Mayor or councillor. See if one or more of these statements work for you:
- I have a craving for power and want to rule the world but will settle for Redlands, for now
- I want to be admired/loved by everyone and see my photo in the local paper every week
- I can’t think of anything better to do and the money seems OK
- I want to do good work for the local community and make Redlands a better place to live
- Some real estate developers said that they would support my campaign because I seem like a good person who understands what the community wants
Hint: some of these reasons are not good
Criteria for becoming a councillor
Useful guidance about having a run for Council is set out in a document published by the NSW Government. The fundamental issues of local government are pretty similar whether you live north or south of the Tweed River. This document suggests that skills, knowledge and attributes which are helpful for councillors to have include:
- Communication skills, including listening and interpersonal skills, public speaking, respecting different opinions, negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution skills
- Problem solving and analytical skills, in order to get to the core of a problem and come up with good solutions
- Teamwork skills, because councillors need to work together to benefit the community
- Organisational skills, including time management and priority setting
- Understanding of financial and reporting processes, including understanding budget processes and financial reports
- Ability to engage with the community
- Understanding of social justice principles
- Understanding of the role and services of local government
- Ability to understand relevant State Government legislation
- Leader ship qualities, such as energy, optimism,motivation, resilience, confidence, assertiveness,strategic thinking, advocacy and networking
- Ethical and accountable behaviour – and a commitment to acting in the best interests of the community as a whole
- Have a genuine interest in the community and understand local issues
- Be compassionate , understanding, and supportive of people in the community
- Be good at listening to people and finding out what they want
- Be able to mix with all sorts of people – from primary school kids to the Prime Minister.
- Be able to smell a rat, because some people will try to mislead you
Are you the sort of person who will stand up and fight for what you think is important? There are likely to be times during a term in public office when you have to do things that are not easy and not popular. Some people will almost certainly disagree with some things you say and do. They may even say nasty things to you or (more likely) about you. Make sure that you have the guts and strength of character to keep calm and carry on.
If you have trouble sitting quietly in a meeting for an hour or two listening to others talking then maybe the Council needs someone less energetic than you.
Sometimes you may have to deal with people who are difficult, rude, or very upset. This is part of the job and do not expect to get thanked for doing this.
As a good councillor you should have the energy, skill and interest to do your own research on Council issues. It would be silly to trust others whose motives might be more than questionable.
Most effective councillors are heavily involved in community groups and activities. This takes lots of time and effort but ensures that you have a large and effective personal network.
Becoming a councillor
Useful information about becoming a councillor in Queensland is provided on the Queensland Government’s website. This includes:
- Eligibility to nominate for local government
- How to nominate for council election
- The election campaign
- Getting started as a councillor or mayor – what happens after the election
- Your role as an elected councillor or mayor
- Your responsibilities as a councillor or mayor
Conflicts of interest
The Queensland Government provides much information about conflicts of interest, which includes the following statements:
Your fundamental role as a councillor is to serve and represent the interests of your community as a whole. In the event of a conflict between the public and private interests of you or your related persons, the overall public interest must prevail.
You are required to disclose any personal interests which may influence your voting at local government and committee meetings. This includes interests that may result in a gain or loss for you or your related persons.
You are responsible for assessing your own circumstances and determining if you have a material personal interest. You must disclose the interest to the meeting and then leave the meeting room and not take part while the matter is being debated and voted on.
Failure to disclose your material personal interest and leave the meeting is an offence that carries significant penalties including up to two years imprisonment.
More information about this important issue is available here.
If you are likely to have conflicts of interest it might be better to not run for elected office.
Check it out first
Before getting too excited, make sure that this is what you really want to do.
If you want to run for Council you will normally have to run a campaign to convince voters that you are the best person for the job. This will take time and money. A realistic budget to become a councillor is $10,000 to $20,000. Of course if you are well known and very popular then maybe you would not have spend so much. To run successfully for Mayor you may need to spend much more.
Campaign funds are typically spent on things like:
- Nomination fees
- Advertising (flyers, signs with your photo, media advertisements)
- Polling booth activities like how to vote cards, t-shirts for your supporters and more signs
Remember to comply with relevant laws about receipt and spending of campaign funds.
If you are interested in getting one of these jobs, good luck.
Where to next
Here is a link to some useful information to get you started:
Redland City Council Annual Report (pages 20-21) details how much the Mayor and Councillors earn, including travel allowances