YOU could not pay me to be a councillor.
As a former election candidate myself, I know about the painstaking research and hard work it takes to carefully craft a campaign and push policy platforms.
I was the underdog, up against a domineering force with unparalleled financial backing from her father and a quirky name that fit perfectly into a convenient pun about the then leader of the United States of America.
"George W for President" the free badges she handed out like popcorn read.
Laminated posters with her face shoddily photoshopped onto the president's body were plastered all over Garden Suburb Public School.
My best friend had become my fiercest competitor. All I had was a rented captain's hat and a dream to lead my primary school to success.
I lost the election by what I assume was a landslide and in the interests of a democratic system, a cap was placed on campaign budgets the next year.
It was a mere glimpse into the world of civic leadership, fast-forward to 2020 and as the Leader's council reporter I see firsthand the hard work the councillors and mayor put in.
This week councillors voted to give themselves a pay rise once the pandemic has hopefully passed. If I'm honest, I can't blame them.
It's a tough job, once elected into the public eye you're a councillor 24/7. Nobody gets into local governance for the money, in fact, most councillors work a second job to pay off the mortgage.
Even with a hike, the pay rates for regional NSW councillors are shockingly low, when compared to the $80,000 and above paid in parts of regional QLD. With leadership becomes great responsibility but not always great renumeration. If we want to see more candidates at the next election, councillors need to be paid what they deserve.
P.S. George W, no guesses what was in that brown paper lunch bag exchanged with the principal.
- Madeline Link is an ACM journalist