A Mayoral visit The young people of Headliners Foyle invited the first Mayor of the new Derry City and Strabane District Council to their Saturday Bureau. So successful was the visit that members were left wondering, is Elisha McCallion the trendiest, most stylish mayor in the UK and Ireland? The Headliners members agreed that their fashionable Mayor is as suited to being a member of Little Mix as politics. In this exclusive interview, the outgoing Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Elisha McCallion, described herself as a selfie-taking, youth-focused, forward-thinking Mayor who is delighted to become the first, first citizen of the new North West super-council. Here she explains her political motivations and her desire to give young people a say on policy making decisions. Ever the straight shooter, Lauren began the interview by asking Mrs McCallion ‘What does a Mayor do?’ “That is the million dollar question. There is no definitive answer," was the candid response: “As head of Council I am charged with driving the organisation into the future. Helping to shape that change is a challenge I am looking forward to. “Community planning is an ongoing process. My duties range from developing infrastructure which we do not have direct responsibility for, such as our roads, to our education system, to those which we are charged with I.E. job creation. "Many people are charged with pulling that plan together but submissions are invited from every citizen in the council area. “I can’t impress enough on young people the importance of having their voice heard. If you have an interest in the future of this region then you really should be influencing that plan. “I really encourage young people to feed into that process,” appealed the Mayor. Asked about her own plans for office, the Mrs. McCallion revealed her determination that Derry is named European Youth Capital of 2019. “This is my baby,” beamed Elisha. “This will allow young people to have their voice heard. We currently modernising the consultation process with the development of social media applications. This will hopefully bring as many young people on board as possible. “We are currently developing the application process but my hope is that, with commitment from council and the Northern Irish Assembly, we can secure this title, so that we may showcase the talented young people of this region. “If it happens it should also be party central for young people in Derry in 2019,” she added to a cheer. These are far stretching plans so it is a surprise to learn our Mayor entered politics almost by default rather than by design. The Mayor revealed: “I never wanted to be involved in politics with a big P but I was always involved in community and youth groups as a leader in charge. It was a natural process. My first encounter with politics was the 1997 Drumcree Crisis. As a 12 year old I became engrossed in the news and became aware of what was happening in Northern Ireland. That was the beginning of my political education. So it followed then, aged 16, I joined Sinn Fein youth.” James then asked about the challenges presented by the recent amalgamation of Derry and Strabane District Councils as part of the Review of Public Administration. Mrs. McCallion said: “There are a lot of differences. Derry was an urban district council and urban policies effective in Derry do not always make the most natural fit in rural wards. “There have been a lot of positive changes already. We reorganised in order to make efficiency savings in the long term. Hopefully in three or four years those savings will be realised.” Casey asked was the Mayor supportive of the current LGBT equality campaign. The Mayor responded: “Of course I am 100% behind any equality drive but especially the LGB and the separate issues faced by the ‘T’ or transgender community. I have learned that these issues are very different, LGB concerns sexuality while the 'T' community are generally more focused on gender issues.” “My bottom line is equality. Equality is equality across the line, no matter what. I am 100% dedicated to ensuring equality across the board.” Casey then asked how many hours the Mayor works each week? Mayor McLaughlin smiled and said: “I work seven days a week and it usually amounts to an excess of 70 hours. As Mayor you perform many civic duties, welcoming visitors, tourists and investors alike. You meet and greet them and engage them on whatever particular interest it was which attracted them to Derry." Thomas then asked what was the most challenging aspects of being Mayor? Elisha said: “I have three children aged 10, 7 and one year old. Balancing the duties of the Mayor’s office and family responsibilities is the hardest part of the job.” Hanna asked why are there not more things for young people to do in Derry? “In my opinion it is because not enough young people are involved in the positions of responsibility. In those positions which decisions are made. That is why we need to have more women and young people involved in politics. “I am constantly arguing with the education authority that traditional youth clubs don’t work anymore. Badminton is no longer a major attraction for young people. We need more young people to make their voices heard.” To have your voice heard join Headliners by clicking on the links to your local Headliners Bureau. This interview was conducted by Lauren Quigley, Kasey Hayes, Hannah Partridge, Thomas Walker, James Dalziel and Gerard Doherty.