It’s been just over a week since Elisha McCallion became the inaugural First Citizen of Derry City and Strabane District Council and already she has the mayoral bug.
“I’ve purposely spent the last few days in Strabane - I can hand on heart say I have enjoyed every moment of it so far,” she said.
Derry City Council ceased to exist on April 1, 2015 and was replaced by the new Derry City and Strabane District Council.
Sinn Fein is a largest party within the new super council and was thereby given the opportunity to select a councillor to become the new council’s first official new mayor.
“It’s a great honour to have been selected by the party,” said Elisha.
“I am dedicated to being the mayor of this new council area for absolutely everyone. I want my time as mayor to be all about a new era and about fresh opportunities for everyone.”
Alongside meeting with various community groups and welcoming visitors to the new council area Elisha said she intends to do what she can to tackle the severe lack of unemployment.
Out of the 11 new super councils across the North, Derry and Strabane has the highest rate of unemployment with 7.4 per cent of men and women of working age claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance.
One of the ways in which Elisha and her council colleagues plan to address the unemployment situation is by creating a jobs taskforce that could work closely with the already established North West ministerial sub-group.
“For too long the Derry and Strabane areas have experienced high unemployment rates and it would be my ambition as the mayor of the new council area to try to tackle this issue. There’s a lot of work still to be done but I think that the issue of unemployment is going to be the new council’s biggest challenge moving forward,” she said.
“We’ve been talking with the CEO of Donegal County Council and he has said he would like to work with us to provide a cross-border approach to the issue of unemployment.”
Elisha was first elected to represent the people of Shantallow in 2005. Although much has changed since then Elisha said her passion for helping and working with people in the community remains steadfast.
“I worked in the community and voluntary sector for over 10 years. I thought I had a good idea of the needs and wants of community groups but my first few days as mayor have really opened my eyes to what many of these groups are having to endure on a daily basis.”
Elisha is now 32 years-old and nine months ago she gave birth to her third child and son, Malachy. Elisha’s husband is called Declan and they have two other young sons called Daithí (10) and Fiachra (seven).
“I had a serious conversation with my family before I agreed to take up the position of mayor because as a result of my duties it means that I am not about the house as much as I used to be. But I like to take the opportunity from everything so that’s why I plan on using my time as mayor to show the people I work for and represent that I am just a normal mammy like many of them.
“I want my children, where possible and where suitable, to share in my year as mayor and I want the people I am meeting to see that I am just like one of them.”
She added: “I would be lost without my family, both my own family and Declan’s family. Declan’s work requires him to do a lot of travelling but he has been so supportive and has sacrificed that so that I can be mayor. Myself, Declan and the four boys would be lost without the help and support of our families.”
Like many of the Mayors of Derry, the new Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council gets to decide which charity she or he would like to donate money to throughout the year. As a result of personal experience, Elisha has named her charity as the Alzheimer’s Society.
“My granny Anderson will kill me if I don’t refer to her as my nanny so make sure you call her my nanny,” laughed Elisha.
“My nanny has had Alzheimer’s for a while now and to be honest with you we would be lost without the Alzheimer’s Society - they have done so much for our family over the years so that’s why I want to raise awareness about the illness and hopefully raise some much needed funds for them too.”
If you would like to keep up-to-date with how your new mayor is getting on you can follow Councillor Elisha McCallion on Twitter: @elishamcl