Continuing the Councillor interviews, today Councillor Karen McGowan has answered a few questions on her motivations for becoming a Councillor, what she’s most proud of achieving and how local people can get involved in community activities.
Growing up in the Birley area, Karen has been a Birley Ward Councillor since 2010. The first question we put to her was what motivated her to become a Councillor?
I’ve been a member of the Labour Party since the 1980’s and have been active within the community for as long as I can remember with things such as being a school governor at Birley Learning Community and a member of the Birley Health Centre Patient focus Group.
It was Councillor Bryan Lodge who suggested the idea of becoming a Councillor. I was hesitant at first, but after shadowing other Councillors I realised I had the passion to help make a positive difference, and if being a Councillor will help me in achieving this, then it was something I felt I should get involved in. Although if you had told me 10 years ago I’d be entering my 5th year as a Councillor I wouldn’t have believed you.
In you time as a Councillor, what have been your proudest moments?
Serving my local community is something I’m extremely proud of. I’m really passionate about making it the best place to live and work for everyone.
The development of the Hackenthorpe Skate Park was a great success. We listened to all the residents and came up with a solution that’s worked for everyone. It’s given the local youth something they wanted and has been extremely popular so far.
Working with local volunteers is also something I’m always proud of, especially recently with volunteers who are running both the Frecheville and Gleadless libraries. I’ve found it a real privilege to help support such dedicated and hardworking residents who are making our areas better.
Additionally, the amount of litter around is something I don’t like to see, and so in response to resident concerns, the Birley Blitz litter-picking events were organised and so far these have been brilliant. It’s been a great way to get others involved and really make an immediate difference to how our streets look and feel.
How do you fit all the council duties around your day-to-day job and family?
It is difficult to manage as I have responsibilities just like everyone else. As well as being a Councillor I have a husband and daughter and work for the University of Sheffield 3 days a week. I’m very lucky in that my family are hugely supportive, as it’s them that my Councillor duties impact upon most as I’m often out both evenings and weekends meeting residents, at council meetings, or getting involved in local events and activities.
How can members of the local community get involved?
They can let me, Bryan or Denise (fellow local Councillors) know of any issue that’s important to them in our community. Alternatively, they can get directly involved in any existing community group we have such as Friends of Charnock Recreation Ground, Friends of Frecheville Park & Pond, Friends of Dykes Vale Park, volunteering at Frecheville or Gleadless library or even by simply buying and donating books from the libraries. There are already a lot of local people making a huge difference to our local community and I’m always keen to help others the best I can.
And finally, what are your main hobbies outside of the council?
I enjoy swimming and also like to read whenever I can – I’m a big Nora Roberts fan.