I first met our current Mayor Trevor Snaith in 2008 when he gifted Transition Town High Wycombe a small discretionary grant. Since that time we have enjoyed a chat - now and again. We were delighted when it was announced he would be our new Mayor and enjoyed his weighing-in ceremony.

Being a Mayor is a ceremonial duty but we watch with interest what good works and messages Trevor sends out in his term in office. So far he has been extremely industrious! Trevor appears to be the first thoroughly modern Mayor in embracing modern communication techniques – specifically online social networking. He and I have been connected via Facebook and Twitter for several years now and we were delighted when the office of the Mayor of Wycombe suddenly had its own Facebook and Twitter accounts too (@MayorOfWycombe, @MayoressWycombe & @WycombeDepMayor on Twitter, plus facebook.com/MayorOfHighWycombe). Welcome to the 21st Century. Trevor now joins that other significant local politician in being all-things-online – Steve Baker MP.

It is through his tweets that we have been able to closely follow the Mayor’s Appeal for the One Can Trust (“Opportunities to help those in Need, Empowering people to work together and encouraging Communities into ActioN“). This charity (for those who don’t already know) describes itself as having been started “to facilitate community based projects“. In reality this currently means Food Banks in the High Wycombe area. Welcome to austerity Britain.... somehow this seems a sign of the times. Deputy Mayor Paula Lee has chosen Child Bereavement UK as the other charity the Mayor's office will focus on for this term.

In Trevor's other sphere of work – politics – this thoroughly modern mayor is a man pressing for a return of the High Wycombe Town Council. This campaign’s Facebook page (facebook.com/pages/High-Wycombe-Town-Council) page reads “High Wycombe is the only town in Buckinghamshire that does not have its own Town Council. Its time for the residents to take control of their future.” [It may well be something that you naturally drop a “Like” onto although Trevor rushed to make me content administrator – something I had to decline. Not that it isn’t a worthy cause but rather it reflects the fact that it is highly politicised.]

Much like the referendum on Proportional Representation in our Electoral system, these things seem like (in any other context) to be a no-brainer if you started from a clean sheet of paper. But we don’t have a clean sheet of paper. In a world of entrenched political interests such changes for “good” will turn out losers as well as winners. If the majority of people perceive that their special interest group will lose out (even if they have enjoyed an unfair advantage from the current status quo) then they will stand against anything that threatens their position. Right and wrong have nothing to do with it. Of course this is a shame. Any debate of re-localisation would ask what sort of local democracy would best serve a people of any town. Whether you think a Town Council serves the interest of Wycombe-ites entirely depends upon which political tribe you subscribe to.

Wycombe naturally could be a town of somewhat more diverse political representation. However the electoral boundaries are drawn in such a way that the outlying settlements (in more rural areas) skews the political direction of the Council. If you were to draw the boundary another way then another political tribe may well be in power. Hence there are winners and losers. Essentially the losers (in this current arrangement) are FOR the idea of a Town Council, whilst the current winners are AGAINST the idea. Since the current winners are in charge then anyone perceived to be in favour of such a layer in local democracy find themselves drawing the short straw. For expediency it is necessary not to be overly-identified with such a cause – however appealing it may seem.

So it seems, for now, that this cherished vision of our current Mayor is going nowhere despite talk of “greater powers for High Wycombe Town Committee” from the end of May this year. So how else could our Mayor change the world (or at least this little corner of it)? Well he could join the “Covenant of Mayors” an “ambitious initiative of the European Commission for cities and local authorities going beyond the EU 2020 energy objectives“. As usual the Europeans are streets ahead but the Americans are finally catching up with this vision. Only this week 50 US Mayors launched the “Resilient Communities for America” (http://www.resilientamerica.org/) to great fanfare.

Resilient Communities for America (RC4A) will “champion the leadership of hundreds of local elected officials who commit to creating more prepared communities that can bounce back from extreme weather, energy, and economic challenges.” Of course these are big city Mayors and the democratic system in the USA is different. But when 50 of their Mayors stand up and be counted in means something. They are not alone as we haven’t yet counted the Mayors Climate Protection Center founded in 2007 as a subgroup of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Meanwhile back in Europe we had the 2011 Bonn Declaration of Mayors to commit to globally coordinated local climate action. In Mexico City in 2010 “the mayors of the world made a pact to address climate change“.  Then we have the World Mayors Council on Climate Change. Even the Mayor of London has got in on the act with his Climate Change Adaptation Strategy… And the list goes on. Seems this Climate Change business is a big deal if you are to be a thoroughly modern Mayor.

Our Trev has not been afraid to be outspoken and court controversy. Although the establishment & office he now represents is still deeply traditional in outlook, maybe there is something to being, well, just a little bit radical. Take for example the indefatigable and ever-so slightly wonderful Councillor Lesley Clarke OBE. How pleased we were to hear that the current Cabinet Member for the Environment has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Maybe there is something to all this environmental stuff after-all heah?

We first met Lesley back in 2009. She was then Leader of the Council and Chair of the Sustainability Policy Advice Group (SPAG). We were invited to give a presentation to the SPAG in the Council main Chamber and we were duly invited onto the Environmental Sub-committee of the Wycombe Partnership. We were then asked to submit projects for funding and clearly Lesley was paying attention because she approached us at a subsequent community workshop, to offer a small amount of seed funding for a Local Food guide. The Partnership itself went onto fund the Energy Saving Kits for Loan project at Wycombe Central Library. You can even see a picture of Lesley at the launch event on page 204 of “The Transition Companion” (Rob Hopkins 2011 ISBN 978 1 900322 97 3).

The Local Food Guide project was successfully launched in October 2012 again with Lesley in attendance. One of the volunteers on the project subsequently brought us all our local food in one shop – Local Roots (motto – "please park outside the shop!"). From there the network subsequently created resulted in the Wycombe Harvest event. To this day we enjoy the occasional chat with Lesley at events like Pann Mill open days where she always impresses us with her ideas for local renewable energy. We know the limits of the natural world feature in her political thinking. So if anyone deserves an OBE it is Lesley. Well done to her.

Of course we can throw in here brief mention of our friends David Johncock or Bill-Bendyshe Brown who are doing grand work on fuel poverty but the serious point is here that we have a great crowd in local politics. It is a measure of how non-controversial Transition is that local Councillors feel happy to muck-in and help with projects that we work on. Hanging out with us clearly has had no detrimental effect upon any of their careers. Why should it? Despite the messages we see everyday it is worth remembering that statistically an MP is less likely to retain their seat at a General Election if they don’t support wind farms. Going sustainable is the new choice of conservative middle England.

Could a Mayor one day choose Transition to a post-carbon life as his or her favoured project? Well, maybe not. It is still a ceremonial role designed to do wholesome “good”. But one day we will all need to stand up and be counted. Trevor has an we will enjoy watching his progress this year through Twitter and Facebook. I guess we just wanted to say thanks. Cheers mate.

This blog reproduced with permission from http://www.post-carbon-living.com/blog/index.php/2013/06/21/a-thoroughly-modern-mayor/ where you may comment if you wish. You can drop us a line on Twitter (twitter.com/TTWycombe) or Facebook (facebook.com/TTWycombe) or via our web site at www.transition-wycombe.org.uk. You can next meet the author, Transition Town High Wycombe and the Low Carbon Chilterns at the Pann Mill open day on Sunday 14th July. We look forward to meeting you.