A Q&A with the new Mayor of Ross-on-Wye
Councillor Daniel Lister was formally installed as Mayor of Ross-on-Wye on 7th May.
Ross-on-Line wanted to provide the residents of Ross the opportunity to get to know our new Mayor a little better. We spoke with Cllr Lister in length about his plans for his term as Mayor and what it has meant to him to become Mayor of Ross-on-Wye.
A large majority of people know you well in Ross, but for those that don’t can you tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have lived in Ross since 2010. I came here to work with PGL after spending 6 years in France, Spain and various other locations around the UK. After 17 years with them, I now find myself working with Enviroability as a facilitator on two of their projects. Spread our Wings is one, which helps local disabled and disadvantaged people get out and about into the workplace. We source and package ethically grown birdseed, which is for sale in a number of locations locally. Also Leisure link where we organise a program of fun social events in Ross. It was originally set up to integrate people with learning disabilities into the community. However many others, for a variety of reasons, who also find it difficult to access social networks are more than welcome to join and enjoy the friendly atmosphere. I’ve only been with Enviroability a short time, but I already feel part of the family and I am enjoying the change. I also have two other jobs which are community based and support others.
I do a lot of OCR ‘obstacle course running’, I founded and manage a supportive group of over 2000 people on Facebook from all over the world where I organise events and social meet ups. We travel all over the UK and overseas to run in mud and climb over or tackle big obstacles. Most of all it’s an extremely supportive group for those not wanting to run alone, looking for support or a good time with friends. I’m also a volunteer hospital radio DJ and sit on their committee. I am a fan of motorbikes and enjoy taking long journeys with friends. In general I enjoy and spend most of my time helping others and volunteering my time to different groups. I just like helping others.
What made you want to become a Town Councillor?
In truth I did not want to be a councillor, and had no interest in what councillors really did, nor did i ever dream of being a person that could be one. My school grades were not exactly good, nor had I considered myself clever enough. When I sit down and think about it, I was one of the well known residents that took to Ross-on-Wye Notice Board on Facebook and complained about the council, councillors and the state of certain areas and the taxes I paid for where I lived.
Back then Andrew Atkinson was a town Councillor, along with Craig Morgan. I will never forget Andy saying in a reply to me; why don’t you stop complaining all the time and do something about it “become a councillor”. I just laughed and thought don’t fob me off, just do something about what I’m complaining about. Little did I know he was working on them in the background!
Later that week I bumped into Craig who told me I really did have some great ideas and my passion was clear to see, and he told me to think about what Andy had said. He also said I was becoming sour! Again I laughed and said there is no way I am clever enough, let alone get voted it. To which he said “If i can, you can and what matters is you care and that will show through.” Weeks went on and I found myself getting more and more annoyed with the council, and Craig and Andy just kept chiselling away at me, but I still didn’t budge. It was like being asked to go over to the dark side, and I certainly didn’t want to be part of a party either.
Anyway, to cut a long story short Craig asked to come round one day for a chat. Although this was no chat, as he had brought the forms to become a councillor and told me I could stand as an Independent, and to stop moaning and fill out the forms. I am not great with forms, but Craig was a huge help. I filled them out thinking I would never get in, and then I did. The rest is history!
What did it mean to you to become Mayor of Ross-on-Wye?
I’m not even sure words can describe it. When I was first asked I honestly thought it was a joke, and was a little dismissive. Again doubting myself and thinking I could never be the Mayor of Ross-on-Wye, not Danny Lister. I was blown away just by being asked, and excited at the achievement of it. Being Deputy Mayor was a quick learning curve and Jane Roberts was extremely helpful.
When the day come to be installed as Mayor, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. Because of the COVID-19 lockdown we couldn’t have the Mayor Making event, which is the big occasion to celebrate becoming Mayor with family, friends and residents and for them to see what I have achieved. Of course the pandemic took priority and I knew there were worse things happening in the world, and the right decision was to cancel. I was over the moon, and so happy. I will be honest, I did cry a little too. I was once living in a halfway house being told I had no life ahead of me. To think where I was back then to where I am today, and to know someone trusts you and believes in you is something that words cannot describe.
I thought to myself “wow Danny you have really achieved something here in your life. Well done mate. Now work hard for the town and the residents to give them a voice.”
Being Mayor is not about me, it’s about the town and all those that live within it and visit it. Honestly, to be supported and put forward for such a role is something I will never forgot and I am so very thankful for. Without that support I couldn’t be here. This really is a life changing experience, for which I am lost for words.
What plans do you have for your term as Mayor?
This is top secret! Sorry! I had so much planned that would involve families and the youth of the town mainly. From fun days to good old fashioned sports days, ‘tug of war’ and so so much more! These have been banked though, for obvious reasons. If I ever have the chance to be Mayor again, I will dig these events out. Being Mayor is also about promoting Ross and selling it to others when you attend events held by other towns, groups and individuals, and one thing I’m good at, is talking highly of Ross !
I still want to stick to a few though! One being a record breaking attempt, with what I’m yet to decide (any ideas are welcome). I would like to start a Mayor’s Chair, which will include a talking bench in the town, and some more places to sit which could also involve the traders of the town if they so wish. I plan to try and get another park area in the town with a French/Spanish theme for all ages to enjoy. I have been looking at some virtual running/walking events where you will get a ‘Mayor’s Chain’ on completion, with money being raised for local community groups. I really would like to visit all the care homes on a weekly or fortnightly basis when possible, and every community group in the town, though I fear this may be unachievable.
I also wanted to plan a series of nights with Live bands at the Larruperz Centre which would be free to enter, but donations to my cause for the year, with everyone being welcome. What better way to get to know our community, than over a drink and some live music.
I’m told I’m thinking too big, but the plan was to bring local groups and residents together. Sadly due to the current restrictions, all events are on understandably on hold.
The rest is secret for now, sorry!
Every Mayor chooses a Charity of the Year to support, who are you supporting during your term?
I don’t have a charity as such. It was really difficult to choose just one, so I decided to fundraise for youth services. There is a great importance for youth services, which can really make a positive change to young lives. Whether that be a youth club, drama club, cooking class or sport group. Literally anything that helps and supports youth. When I was bouncing around a halfway house and sofa surfing for some time, and hanging around in some dodgy places, I recall the positive impact the youth leader and local youth club made to my life. These services are so important, and are massively underfunded. If I can help just a little towards a project or running of a club, then that would be great. The idea is that any money raised at the end of my term will be available for groups to apply for, whether it is for projects they plan or maybe to put it towards some rent. Any ideas will be considered, and it would be great to hear from the youth that use the service. I fear that having to cancel a lot of my ideas and events due to the pandemic, that not a lot will be raised. If this is the case, we may need to amend the idea slightly and donate to just one group, but I will see how this pans out in the coming months.
You are very active on social media which is great to see, how important do you feel it is to be active on social media platforms?
Extremely important, and it’s a key link to the community. I have Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter. The way people report issues, concerns or just want to chat is changing, so being on all networks is key to that. I also want to reach out to the younger community, and felt this would help. When people have a concern, it is so easy to share photos, videos etc and to be able to respond quickly, and to get a real sense of the problem without being right there. Social Media is great for that when needed. I honestly believe it enables you to be seen to be a ‘real person’, and that someone is there to listen and to be accountable. An email can be a shot in the dark sometimes, although it is still extremely helpful in terms of an information trail! We still very much need emails.
It’s also my way of ‘promoting’ myself as an Independent councillor. As I am not connected to a party, I don’t have a team to do my marketing or canvass for me, nor a budget for leaflets, posters and run Social Media campaigns etc. It is just me and whatever I can afford at the time. I never like to ask for help as i’d rather not trouble anyone, so again for that side Social Media can be amazing, and reach thousands within seconds. Not to mention it gets rid of the endless printing of bits of paper that end up in the bin!
It has been an odd year so far what with the floods and the pandemic, but it has been great to see the community of Ross pull together, has there been a stand out moment for you that sticks in your mind?
Yes, most definitely. It has to be the floods. I spent a lot of time out and about during the floods, not just in my ward, the North Ward, but all over Ross helping residents. I am the emergency resilience officer and a councillor for the areas that were effected, but if you put that to one side I would still be there helping the traders and residents, as well as some of the other councillors who where also out helping. What really stood out to me was how everyone came together to help each other. As individuals their home or business was flooding right in front of their eyes, but they set that aside to help others, because they knew help for them wasn’t far away. The team work and friendship really stood out and was so inspiring, right into the early hours of the morning, and again early the next day to continue the clean up. It was clear that there was a strong sense of community. I heard many times “are you sure” with the response “yes of course it’s what we do. We are a community. A family.” Those words, at that time of need, will never leave my mind, and when I walk through those areas, will always make me smile. Good work everyone.
How can residents contact you with their concerns or questions?
All my details are on the town council website: http://www.rosstc-herefordshire.gov.uk/councillors.php
Weekly chats online on Zoom, booking via: email@example.com
In person once safe to do so weekly at the Market House.