By Aiyana Lowry
Alexander Curtis is currently the Mayor of Ware, East Hertfordshire District Councillor for Great Amwell. But what makes him different? The role as mayor is an office typically held by older people however Alexander became mayor at a much younger age. The Conservative councillor Curtis said, “I don’t think that I imagined becoming mayor at 20 even when I was first elected to my local council at 18.” The young political officeholder shared that he is keen to avoid only being acknowledged for his age. He added “When you hold public office
at such a young age, you often seem to be assessed against higher standards than many of your older peers, something that I have found unfair at times.” Despite that downfall it has had its advantages such as Curtis has been able to reach out to more young people than his older council colleagues would be able to.
There is not one set route or path to get into politics. The Mayor of Ware shared that he does not exactly remember what inspired him to politics however has always been interested in people and solving problems. Alexander began to get involved with politics at the age of 16 when his headteacher at Chauncy school in Ware introduced him to one of the then local MP’s staff who used to regularly visit the school. From that encounter they stayed in touched and not long after the budding politician attended his first campaign session with the local MP and his political party. Curtis said, “It is amazing how much chance meetings and chance decisions shape the opportunities that become available to people in life.”
Being able to balance one’s schedule is very important. After all there are only 24 hours in a day therefore using time wisely is important especially for someone like the young mayor who has a lot on his plate. Whilst studying at Oxford University Curtis was also serving as mayor which meant there was plenty of trips forward and back on the trains during term time. Although balancing these two commitments came as a challenge it did not stop him from graduating with a first-class degree as well as being able to participate in other extra- curricular activities. It is certainly possible to pursue a professional career and elected office concurrently, even if you have to make trade-offs at times. Curtis said, “I have always found it very rewarding to live a busy life.”
Over the past 6 years Alexander has been involved in several campaigns therefore there are many moments that could be a highlight of his political career. However, it comes as no surprise that serving as mayor for the first time is high on the list. The young politician said, “Ware is such a lovely town, and being able to advocate for all of the different groups in its community was a fantastic experience.”
Alongside the Mayor of Ware’s political career, he plans to also pursue a professional career. Curtis has previously worked at the United Nations and undertaken a master’s degree programme. He is also a trustee of a few charities and is interested in gaining more experience in the voluntary sector in the coming years. Although as for many the pandemic has delayed some of these plans.
Several things can make it difficult for a young person to serve as a local councillor such as work or family commitments. The National census of local authority councillors 2018 found that “The average age of councillors in 2018 was 59 years; 15 per cent were aged under-45 and 43 per cent were aged 65 or over.” In response to these statistics the young politician said, “Those statistics are disappointing but not surprising.” Furtherly adding “This has to change though, and I think that many councils are increasingly aware of that.” Curtis suggested that being able to hold briefing and training sessions over Teams/Zoom
permanently might help to make it easier for younger people to serve their local
community. Despite the statistics it is important to remember that there are lots of young people in their 20’s who are politically active including as holders of elected office.
It is never too early to start gaining experience. The Mayor of Ware said, “I think that it is very useful for young people who are interested in a political career to get involved with a political party, if they haven’t done so already. It is very difficult to be elected as an independent in this country, though it does happen at a local level, albeit not that often here in Hertfordshire. Joining a political party can be a great way to meet other like-minded people too, which can be great from a social perspective. All political parties have local branches that are always keen to find new members and activists, so I suggest getting in
touch with your local branch of the one that you want to join in the first instance. Most organised ones should be pretty responsive to emails.”