Two weeks ago, I was merely the Chair of a small, albeit perfectly formed, Parish Council of a small village in a backwater of mid-Suffolk. I had, in all honesty, only become Chair due to a friendly ambush by my fellow councillors, who had decided that I might make a half decent job of the role. They have subsequently re-appointed me twice, which might suggest that I'm doing a halfway decent job of it, although it might equally be that they don't fancy the job much.
Two weeks ago, I "turned up" at a virtual meeting of the Mid Suffolk South branch of the County Association of Local Councils, only to find that there was a hitherto unexpected vacancy for its Vice Chair. And, as nobody else wanted the job, I was elected without competition. So far, so good.
That position also gave me a place on the Board of the County Association and, in that capacity, I joined a Zoom meeting this morning for our Autumn meeting. All very nice, all very friendly, and no great surprises. That was, right up until the point where the elections took place...
Our Chair was re-elected without challenge, but a new Vice-Chair was needed. There was a little shuffling until a volunteer was found, which was good. We reappointed our representative to the East Suffolk Council Collaborative Communities Board (I'll admit that I don't know what that does, but as I don't live in East Suffolk, that isn't critical, I suspect) and then came to the last election, that of our representative on the National Assembly of the National Association of Local Councils, the English umbrella body for the third tier of local government and our equivalent of the Local Government Association.
There didn't seem to be anyone who wanted the job and, as a rookie Board member, I thought it wise to ask what it did. An explanation was given, which seemed harmless enough, but there still wasn't any great rush to take on the role. I was then asked if my question implied some interest and, perhaps foolhardily, suggested that, if nobody else came forward, I'd do it. Nobody did. And so, I got the job.
Each County Association has one member of the National Assembly, so it's not exactly a huge body, but I appear to now have a national platform. And yes, my job is to represent the interests of my county and its town and parish councils, but as a crash course in how the third tier of local government works, it's likely to be pretty intense.
Luckily, I have a strong support network, expert guidance at my disposal, a highly efficient Chief Executive to keep me on the straight and narrow and a predecessor happy to share his insights and experiences. My first meeting is in early December, so if I thought that I had a lot of reading to do a fortnight ago, I've got a lot more on my hands now...