What if you don’t get re-elected? Or maybe you don’t want to stand again? Liz Johnstone was a Port Phillip councillor between 1994 and 2004 and Mayor in her final year of office. She is now Executive Officer of the Victorian Division of the Planning Institute of Australia.
“Looking back, I remember approaching my decision about retiring from council the same way I approached standing for elections – working hard to plan and prepare.
I asked myself ‘How do I know when to go?’
A difficult question to answer, but when I came to the realisation that it was not about me, it was about succession planning and getting some fresh perspectives on council’s established policy objectives, the question became a lot easier to answer.
I recommend making your decision early, with at least a 12 month lead in time before the election. That way you can plan your own life, and encourage others to consider standing. It helps you identify well regarded, balanced and constructive potential candidates. I worked to find a woman whom I was happy to endorse at the next election. This was great as I felt that I was leaving my role in “safe hands” and I enjoyed the role of mentor and resource person.
Once I had formed my plan I started reading the employment pages on Saturday and I applied for positions that would stretch me . My goal was to get interviews and widen the possibilities about what I might do next.
Life after council turned out to be great – I revved up my ‘old’ life, as well as taking a step in a new direction.
I experienced not grief but ‘relief’ once I was no longer on council. Sure, I missed people, missed the community knowledge I had and being at the centre of decisions, but I could finish work and know I had finished for the week. I see being a councillor as really hard but incredibly rewarding work, its one of those jobs that’s the best job, but it has a price too. I loved having time again…”