MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Councillor Brenda Ramsay (PNP, Bellefield Division), was returned as chair of the Manchester Parish Council and mayor of Mandeville at the official swearing-in ceremony of councillors in Mandeville yesterday.
Councillor Erwin Facey (PNP, Spur Tree Division) was returned unopposed as vice-chairman of the council.
The five new councillors who have joined the Manchester Parish Council are Fairbourne Maxwell (PNP, Mile Gully Division), Jones Oliphant (PNP, Mandeville Division), Burton Wright (PNP, Walderston Division), Cleon Francis (JLP, Knockpatrick Division), and Muriel Swaby (PNP, Porus Division).
The People's National Party won 11 of the 15 seats in the Manchester Parish Council in the March 26 Local Government Elections, leaving the Jamaica Labour Party with four seats.
Some councillors were sworn in to cheers from supporters watching the ceremony on television screens outside the Parish Council building.
Principal Returning Officer Garth Smith, who chaired the ceremony, said that Ramsay, as the first female mayor of Mandeville, "has rewritten the history books".
He urged the newly elected councillors to carry out their duties "equitably and impartially" as the effective functioning of central government is dependent on the "cohesive" functioning of local government.
Member of parliament for Central Manchester Peter Bunting said that during the campaign the PNP tried to make it very clear that local government is a critical component of the governance structure and democracy.
He added that the roles of councillors and that of member of parliament should be clearly defined.
"As we put more responsibility, more resources, more accountability at the level of the local government representative we need to, as a society, make a clearer distinction between the responsibilities of members of parliament and of the local government councillors," he said.
"Oftentimes, voters don't have a clear distinction, and I think it is something we need to work on. A proper division of labour, not doing the same things and overlapping but complementing each other in the whole governance structure," Bunting added.
Audley Shaw, member of parliament for North East Manchester, charged the councillors to look at every opportunity to serve the people well.
"Too often we look at the same doors. As councillors, make yourselves aware of the many agencies. Use yourselves as a catalyst. Seek to widen the effectiveness of your representation," he said.
Bunting and Shaw noted that the Manchester Parish Council has a "long tradition" of providing "excellent service to the people".
Shaw said that with that reputation the council could take the lead in using solar power to generate street lights and avert the cost of using power from the Jamaica Public Service. He said that by going this route, more funds would be made available to more effectively address the other areas of concern.
Mayor Ramsay, in her address, disclosed that the council has already embarked on a "wind energy project" which will enable it to be 100 per cent self-sufficient when completed.
She added that it is time that the talks about local government reform be more than just ideas on paper.
"Civil society wants to have a voice in governance. We owe it to them to be open, transparent and inclusive," said Ramsay.
She also told guests at the ceremony that she plans to meet her obligation to the Manchester community through team effort.