TARA THOMAS is stepping down at 31 August as St Helena’s youngest councillor, to take up a prestigious Chevening Scholarship – awarded to future leaders. Here, she reflects on nearly three years as a dynamic force for change in The Castle – and on a memorable UK holiday with partner Tom.
It’s always good to get away, even if for just a short break. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on what’s happening and to look at things in a different way.
Attending the Jubilee Celebrations and the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics were fantastic highlights. Those events are not just highlights for my time away but highlights for a lifetime.
Those events were preceded by receptions, where the UK government was keen to shed light on their enthusiasm and support for the overseas territories.
I was able to meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who mentioned that he has one of Napoleon’s writing tables in his weekend home, Chequers.
Foreign Secretary William Hague hosted a lunch for all of the Commonwealth country representatives, DfID Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell and FCO minister Henry Bellingham.
Times are tough in the UK, so this presented a great opportunity for someone from St Helena to offer face-to-face thanks for supporting the airport project, and reassurance that solid progress is being made.
They were all particularly pleased to hear that Saints had started returning home for job opportunities around the airport project.
Visiting the schools in Shropshire that St Helena is linked with was also an eye-opener. There’s a lot of good work happening with our education support programme.
There were four of our teachers on exposure visits whilst I was in Shropshire and I was able to meet Barbara Osborne, who was so enthusiastic and received special mention for her dedication from the schools she was working in.
Reflecting on the past two years: it’s been a challenging time. I returned to St Helena in January 2009 to get involved with opportunities arising from the airport project. I joined Council in November of that year during the “pause” phase, as I knew there were going to be limited opportunities for me and other young people if access to the island remained solely by sea.
I urge more young people to involve themselves and influence the decisions and the changes that are so vital to the future of our island.
I want to see St Helena set on to a more prosperous path. It hasn’t been an easy journey, as there were a lot of unpopular decisions to be made. I had to constantly remind myself that I didn’t join Council for popularity – I joined to make a difference.
I’ve been able to witness the airport contract being signed and remarkable progress being made. I’ll leave Council life behind, knowing that every decision I’ve made has been in the best interests of St Helena and the long-term prosperity of our people.
I want to thank my colleagues for their support over the years, both councillors and officials.
I’d like to make special mention of our Financial Secretary, Paul Blessington, who offered me an enormous amount of support on the Economy and Finance Committee. Once recovered, I know Paul will be lining up for a ticket on one of the first flights.
Finally, I’d like to thank the people of St Helena for keeping me motivated during my time on Council. I’ll be studying hard next year to bring back new skills and ideas. I might not seek to come straight back to Council, but I will always be involved in keeping St Helena on that path to prosperity.
- Tara Thomas was chair of St Helena Government’s Economy & Finance Committee. She is to study for an MBA degree at the London School of Business & Finance from January 2013.