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Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

‘I hate the word hero’ Mayor Brindle’s Take on Her Position of Power

Article on the page 
Artwork by Julia Miranda
Article on the page Artwork by Julia Miranda

Leaders of a community have a significant responsibility. They give suggestions on policy-making and are responsible for the general welfare of the people, making them a heroic member of that community. In addition, they are in the perpetually in the limelight. This opens them up to potential backlash and villainization from the people they work to serve. For Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle, she says that the terms “hero” and “villain” do not describe her role at all.

“I don’t like the term hero,” she said. “I don’t know if anyone sees me as a hero.” She instead chooses to see supporters and non-supporters, rather than necessarily labeling herself as a hero or villain. Regardless of her feelings about the word hero, because of how involved she is with the community, she is bound to be under the
spotlight, for better or for worse.

Brindle always said that she never had any intention of working in government, especially local politics. Her first career was at HBO where she was the first female executive. When she left HBO, she wanted to have a bigger social impact, but she didn’t know how to achieve that. “Becoming the mayor wasn’t even on the radar,” she said.

Because her previous career had been centered in New York City, she was rarely home in Westfield. However, upon retiring, she began to notice new things in Westfield, like issues with the town council. “The solutions that people were talking about were very band-aid approaches,” she said.

Eventually, someone told Brindle to run for mayor. But, she didn’t want to do it. “I had identified all these challenges that I think needed to be fixed; I kind of had ideas for how it should be solved. But, I wanted someone else to do the work that I wasn’t willing to do,” she said. However, “You can’t rely on others to do the work that you don’t want to do,” she said.

During her campaign, Brindle was very involved. She considers herself a “facts” person, so she presented facts to the citizens so they knew what they would be getting into with her as mayor.

She recruited a lot of high school students for her campaign. Brindle said, “What I love about [younger] generations is that they ask really good questions. The difference in [younger] generations versus [older] generations is they are open and willing to hear the facts.”

When Brindle won the election, she was ecstatic to finally be able to put her ideas out there. However, being mayor comes with some challenges in the spotlight. Brindle has an audience wherever she goes. She has a much more personal connection to the public. People recognize her on the streets and know her kids. Other members of her family live here as well and hear the backlash she receives. “I’ve been here for 30 years. I sit in the same traffic that you do,” she said.

The role of mayor is simply a more personal leadership position compared to national positions because towns are smaller and more intertwined. Brindle is making changes in a town where people have lived for their entire lives, which evokes a more emotional response from the public. “It almost feels like someone’s taking away your memories,” she said.

One Westfield Place was created to advance Westfield, however, it has also sparked many debates. Brindle shared how it is directed at our generation to encourage us to come back to Westfield after college. Her main focus is infrastructure and traffic, safer sidewalks and big issues such as investing in a lot of automation which will serve the community long-term. However, there has been a big emphasis on the people who are opposed to the new plans.

“They need to look past the initial emotional reaction and see the facts.” Brindle handles backlash every day from the project. She stresses that people are not taking the time to understand the benefits of the outcome, rather only the fact there is change and change is not often liked.

The only thing she can do for now is to keep pushing out more information. She cannot make people understand what she is saying nor like what she is saying, but as mayor she cannot give up on what she believes will help future generations. Thus, she is pushing herself to continue past all  of the negatives to push her idea forward.

Since Brindle has been in office for years, she has gained a lot of knowledge on roles and responsibilities. She is driven by having a strong passion about wanting to be mayor for the community and not for the label.

Because being a mayor is a voluntary position, she constantly has to ask herself, “Am I making a big enough impact here? Since Westfield is a wealthy town — should I help in other places?”

Often answers aren’t obvious, however, she is out talking to people as a full-time mayor getting their input. The impact of her leaving her physical office and going out in the town benefits her by showing she is part of this town and community. She has to think about all of this as well as all of the work she has in office to be seen as a member by the people.

Brindle feels “it helps to have that roadmap for what you want to do to help you to give you the clarity and the courage to drown out a lot of the noise.” This is an important attribute not only for the community but for herself. She pushes boundaries and does what she feels is going to help and inspire others, preferably our generation, to consider public office in the future.

The advice she passes along is the importance of creating a culture of trust with the employees and people of the community. It is necessary to her and future roles in office that they create an environment where the people who work for her want to come to work because they feel valued. That is the way to be heroic.

The job of being a mayor is not an easy one and Brindle expresses the devotion and struggles she faces. You cannot label her with the word “hero” nor “villain” without hearing her story.

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    Joanna Lucille Lewis Ballew SnyderJan 21, 2024 at 8:15 am

    Best advice 1017