The Best Man for this Job…
Address at the Mayoral Service for Councillor Sharon Harkin – 24 July 2022
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
When looking at the readings chosen by our Mayor for this service I could not help but be struck by the commitment to working for others that shines through them. Each one reflects a different part of a call to service and a decision to throw everything in to the job at hand. And in the case of our Mayor, the aphorism first coined in the seventies, rings true, ‘The Best man for this job… is a woman!’
After all why should women be limited in their service because of their gender? Over the course of this year we have been celebrating and giving thanks for the wonderful reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who has surpassed all her forebears in longevity, commitment and selfless service. Perhaps the reason why sometimes ‘The Best man for the job is a woman’ is because women are often first to respond to human need, first to help, first to tend and heal, first to give their lives away. So why is it that women in leadership remains so rare?
In Suffolk we do things differently!
Dr Elizabeth Garret-Anderson, Suffragist, first British woman to qualify as a physician and surgeon, and First female Mayor in Britain (for which we in Felixstowe give thanks to the people of Aldeburgh) was a forerunner of many who followed her and an inspiration to our own Mayor who started her career of community service as a nurse.
But being the First Citzen, whether they be a woman or a man, is not a sinecure and Sharon you will find yourself pulled to and fro throughout the year by the many legitimate needs and concerns of groups of people who are, sadly, too often at loggerheads with each other. You will need superpowers to carry out this task
Those of you who joined in the Carnival yesterday will have noticed that, amongst all the Superheroes (and the occasional Villains) the parade was led by Supergirl. Now I am not saying that Supergirl and the Mayor are the same person but would just like to ask if any of us here have ever seen them together in the same room… (however yesterday Supergirl did seem a little weighed down by her chains of office!)
We know, even if we think our towns might need a team of Marvel Avengers to help make things run better, that not all superheroes wear capes.
Sometimes they wear nursing scrubs.
Sometimes they care for those on the edges of life.
Sometimes they reach out to care for those with challenging conditions that are too easily ignored.
Sometimes they sit alongside those lost in the fog of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
And sometimes they join the ‘chain gang’ and, wearing the yoke of office with humility, step out to ensure that no one, woman or man, girl or boy, is left behind in our community.
Perhaps there is a little bit of Superhero inside of everyone here who holds public office? After all no one I know does it for the pay – often people are lucky if expenses are refunded. Also its not done for the popularity as most find that they are blamed for everything that goes wrong and rarely commended for anything that goes right!
What ‘superpowers’ will each of us need to draw on in the year ahead?
To be able to fly would be a good place to start. Just look into a mayor’s diary and be amazed at how many events are included in them besides keeping down a regular job. But be careful that along the way you do not go so fast as to collect points on your Driving Licence.
A bulletproof body? I am sorry friends you will receive many blows and brickbats over the months ahead and many of them will be undeserved and out of your control.
X-Ray vision and Enhanced Hearing may be useful. So that in any circumstances you are able to see beyond the surface of situations and get to the heart of issues that deserve love and care and healing.
And dare I say a vulnerability to Kryptonite. Knowing not only one’s strengths but also being aware of one’s weaknesses compels us to look around for support from others. Please do not forget that the call to serve means that we need occasionally to tend to our own wounds.
With these ‘powers’ and working together with each other our communities will be stronger, more inclusive, and overflow with happiness.
Join me as we take a leap of faith into the future and, with a different superhero, cry out, ‘To Infinity and Beyond!’
The new Mayor of Felixstowe is Councillor Sharon Harki
The Deputy Mayor is Councillor Mick Richardson.
The Mayor’s chosen charities for the year are:
Find out more about the work of Felixstowe Town Council here.
Follow them on Twitter @felixstoweTC
And on Facebook here.