MAY PEN, Clarendon — Becoming mayor of May Pen was a major milestone in Scean Barnswell's political career but, left up to him, it won't be the last.
The third-term People's National Party (PNP) councillor (Hayes Division) has long-term ambitions of becoming a minister of government but, in the short-term, he is focused on helping to restore this mid-island town to its former glory.
Should he not achieve all of his short-term goals by the time he demits office, Barnswell is hoping he would have done his bit to advance Clarendon's welfare.
"I want to help bring back some level of order within the business district," he said. "So far I think the feedback from the 'Jamaica 50' clean-up and so forth has been great. It has brought back a level of hope to people who do business in May Pen."
Growing up in Hayes, south-east Clarendon, Barnswell's desire to enter politics was motivated by his early association with former councillor for the Hayes Division the late Emanuel Cousins.
His political aspirations gained further momentum while attending Clarendon College in the 1980s. "Clarendon College was where the entire thing started, right on those library steps," he said. "When there was no (class) we would debate about politics; why it's the PNP and not the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) and those sorts of things."
Barnswell added: "I have been in the background, quietly observing and asking questions. Senior members of the party like Paul Burke have contributed tremendously to my upbringing in politics. He's my mentor. He was the person who guided me with trying to understand the history and policies of the party."
Barnswell's first foray into representational politics ended in disappointment in 1998 after losing the Mineral Heights Division to the JLP's Milton Brown, the man he incidentally succeeded as May Pen mayor in the Local Government Elections last March.
He later moved to the Hayes Division, where he is now unbeaten in three Local Government Elections. But he would suffer another crushing defeat at the polls, this time to the JLP's Rudyard Spencer in the 2007 General Elections.
"I still have ambitions of being in Gordon House," Barnswell said. "I see myself being a minister of government; Transport and works, local government or labour, but I am using this opportunity as a stepping stone."
Despite suffering that setback in 2007, Barnswell's stock continued to rise and in March this year, he realised a life-long dream when he was sworn in as mayor of May Pen and, by extension, chairman of the Clarendon Parish Council. He was subsequently elected to serve as president of the Association of Local Government Authorities and first vice-president of the Caribbean Association of Local Government Authority.
"I always wanted to be mayor of May Pen because a cousin of mine, Balfour Barnswell, is a former mayor of the KSAC, but I have very little information about him, so I really wanted to put the family name on the front burner again and I was happy when I got the opportunity," he said.
Nine months on, the 39-year-old Barnswell, May Pen's second youngest mayor, reckons his tenure has been relatively smooth but he admitted that there are still many challenges to overcome.
Finding a permanent solution to street vending in the parish capital is chief among them.
"We have made some progress, but we are still faced with challenges," Barnswell explained. "We have seen one and two protests because some persons are adamant that they will continue to do what is unlawful. However, with the help of the municipal police and the Island Special Constabulary, we have managed to maintain a thoroughfare free from vending."
"So far we have managed to separate the ground provisions from the dry goods because we had people selling everything in the same space. We now have an area called the old market house, which is reserved for the selling of haberdashery and so forth and then we have placed persons selling ground provisions to the other side of the market, along with the fish vendors, where we call the new market house."
Maintaining a cordial working relationship with the parish's most senior parliamentarian, the JLP's Lester 'Mike' Henry, who represents Clarendon Central, is also a priority for Barnswell.
"He has been here for over 30 years, which simply means there is something that he would like to see happen for the town, so with his ideas and vision shared with that of the parish council we can provide quality service for the people," said Barnswell.