From Ambassador training to local councillor

When I attended the WES Ambassador training last November little did I know that I would be motivated to run in my local council by-election a month later. Meeting so many strong powerful women sharing their entrepreneurial journeys and stating why they wanted to encourage more women to step up and take charge of their destinies, was an amazing experience. I left that day walking a little taller and with a lot less self-doubt weighing me down.

Married to my husband Ian, mother of two teenage children, and owner of two retail businesses, I have lived all my life in the beautiful Scottish Borders. On the day the by-election was announced last December I finally decided to stop being afraid and go for something I had wanted to do for some time. I will admit I was completely terrified putting myself out there, but once I did and the messages of support that followed only made me want to do it even more.

As an active community member, I am involved in a number of community groups and projects with in the area, from Christmas Lights to the Chamber of Trade, founder of the Borders Businesswomen’s Club and supporter of the Borders Developing Young Workforce mentoring program, to name but a few.

Within these various community roles, I enjoyed bringing solutions to local problems and delivering events which built on community spirit. Accompany these skills and knowledge with the inspiration and motivation for change, I felt it was now time for me to take the next step in delivering for my community.

This was a local election that was about local issues, therefore I choose to run as an independent, so that I could represent the views of the people within my community, and not be influenced by party politics. A good councillor should be visible, part of the community and accessible. I firmly believe that the essential function of the role is representing our communities, to listen to their views, and act on their concerns.

Eight candidates stood in the by-election, many of them with years of experience. At times I did start to think - what am I doing! but then I thought if this doesn’t work out for me then hopefully it will encourage others to put themselves forward next time.

After of six weeks of campaigning across the area, I was delighted and humbled that so many members of the community put their faith in me to represent them. I can’t remember much about count accept feeling sick with nerves and then the complete overwhelmed when the result was announced, I had done it!! I was elected as Councillor for Selkirkshire on 23rd February 2018.

As an independent candidate you rely heavily on your family and friends for support, the amount of energy both physically and emotionally required for the process is immense, and I couldn’t have done it with them.

As for now, I am currently experiencing a huge learning curve. Interesting times are ahead which I know will bring some challenges, but I look forward to working for my community, giving them a voice and hopefully making a difference.

Caroline Penman

Councillor for Selkirkshire

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