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First British-Filipina Mayor of Hertsmere borough in UK Cynthia Barker: Her First Two Months in Office

First British-Filipina politician Cynthia Alcantara-Barker has embarked anew in her public service journey.

Moments after she was sworn in as the new Mayor of Hertsmere borough in the United Kingdom, Cynthia has officially attended to her duties and responsibilities as the figurehead of the Hertsmere district in Hertfordshire.

 

How’s her first two months in office?

“Well, I am indeed honored to serve my constituents,” exclaimed Alcantara-Barker on our recent online interview.

She’s not the one to assess her performance but her people, of course. Although as an independent thinker and an objective mover of her society, Cynthia is also entitled to her own perception. “Modesty aside, I can say that I have done quite a memorable act in my initial performance of my role,” she quipped.

To begin with, what does a mayor in a borough in the UK do?

 

What is her mandate?

 

According to the British government as has been taught in schools worldwide especially in political science courses and was explained by Cynthia when she paid the Philippines a visit last year, the mayor in Britain is the first citizen of a borough and is elected to the post by fellow councillors at the Full Council annual meeting at the beginning of the municipal year.

This writer was educated first hand and oriented by the election of the Mayor of Hertsmere through a video initially sent to us by Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel (“Moma,” “Ec2luv,” “Mga Paru-Parong Rosas (Pink Butterflies),” “Mona, Singapore Escort,” “When a Gay Man Loves,” “Latak (Residue),” “HiStory,” “Strictly Confidential,” Leona Calderon,” “The Making of Quezon City” etc.).

In the video, the electoral procedures were observed to the letter however virtually because of the limiting political meetings brought about by the deadly threat of the novel coronavirus.

The outgoing mayor of Hertsmere, Allan Plancey presided over the election after he delivered his farewell speech and eventually, proceeded to the nominations for mayor.

There was no other nomination except Cynthia Barker and her nominators were all praises of her. When the single nomination was seconded, Plancey declared Cynthia the new mayor to succeed him. It was a unanimous decision from all the councilors in the virtual chamber.

“Even members of other political parties supported me. I was flattered. All the while I knew maraming boboto. Ninerbiyos ako (many would vote for me. I was nervous),” Cynthia confessed.

“I wouldn’t even dream of being a mayor,” she said.  

Afterwards, it was Barker’s turn to preside throughout the virtual meeting.

“The role of Mayor is a non-political position and during the mayoral year, a mayor concentrates on the role of borough’s first citizen,” elucidated Cynthia.

The mayoral year is equivalent to one year. According to Barker, Hertsmere, and the rest of the UK and the whole world was on standstill because of the pandemic. Eventually, Plancey’s term was extended by a few months. But the national government had advised the borough to go back to business so the Council had to call for a meeting for an election.

Although Alcantara-Barker is affiliated with the Conservative Party, she cannot be a partisan nor discuss policies of any political party or endorse any politician. 

“The Mayor chairs Council meetings mostly about activities in the community,” Cynthia advised.

Barker presided over her first Council Meeting recently even if online. It was attended by thirty-nine (39) councilors. The Mayor was in the chamber together with six (6) people from two (2) political parties. There were two hundred (200) staffers assisting the meeting, physically and virtually.

The most prominent agenda during the meeting was the mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restoration of the economy in the borough.

“The most pressing problem of the community is how to address the effects of the pandemic. There are many families that are affected especially emotionally. Nagbi-breakdown ang family sa ganitong sitwasyon. (the family breaks down during this situation),” Barker qualified. “We look after the children,” she added.

Housing in the borough is also a concern of the Council and the Mayor. “Housing is always an issue. We would like to alleviate the housing condition of the residents,” she shared. 

Here’s a rundown of some of the Mayor’s duties and responsibilities—attends different types of functions throughout the borough and the surrounding area including representing the Council at civic functions, receiving dignitaries, attending formal dinners, opening events, attending church services, talking to clubs and societies and visiting schools and other related activities.

On occasions, the Mayor hosts visit from various groups/organizations. Meanwhile, each Mayor chooses charity/charities which he/she will raise money for during their year.

During the election, Councillor Anne Swerling was chosen as Cynthia’s Deputy Mayor, Barker’s former post. “The Deputy Mayor stands in if the Mayor isn’t available,” said Cynthia.

How to invite the Mayor to an event?

The Mayor, as a matter of fact, is invited to hundreds of engagements every year. So if someone wants Cynthia to attend an event, a request must be made the soonest. 

In any event, it is customary for the Mayor/Deputy Mayor to be greeted on arrival and the correct form of address is “The Worshipful, the Mayor/Deputy Mayor of the Borough of Hertsmere.”

In my online talk with Cynthia, I addressed her “Good day, Worshipful Mayor of Hertsmere” and she chuckled. “Alam mo na, ha (You are already familiar, huh),” she said. 

 

 

Cynthia’s first event she graced was the stage presentation of the Herts Inclusive Theater, a wonderful theater company that encourages the development and enhancement of social interaction of all types of individuals including special people through drama education.

It was a memorable appearance for Barker who said a short but insightful speech for the encouragement and delight of the participants whose ages ranged from nine (9) to sixteen (16) years old. “Their performances for one to two minutes were awesome,” commented Cynthia.

Aside from gracing events, Barker is also going around the borough for consultations with residents. 

There are surely other engagements in the days to come for the welfare of the community.

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