Mid and East Antrim Council Mayor, Councillor Lindsay Millar has topped off a successful year by graduating with a Masters degree last week.
In a special interview with the Guardian, Cllr Millar explained how she managed to juggle her studies with her demanding role as Mayor.
The Mid and East Antrim Mayor graduated with a Master in Communication and PR from the University of Ulster, and it is in this field that she sees her future when her role as Mayor is over.
Always having an interest in politics, she first studied the discipline as an undergraduate before beginning to work with UUP MEP Jim Nicholson at the European Parliament.
However she says that working as Mayor was busier than she had expected.
Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, she said: “It's been such a busy year between studying and working as the Mayor. I'm definitely working every day of the week however, it’s a rewarding role, and meeting new people every day is definitely one of the highlights.”
The Councillor said she was fortunate with how her study deadlines fell.
She said: “When the EU referendum returned a leave vote, that was effectively my P45 as I was working for a member of the European Parliament.
“Therefore, my current job there will cease to exist from March next year, so I knew I needed to explore other career opportunities.
“Going back to University to study Communication and PR was an obvious choice for me.
“While working for Jim Nicholson MEP I have had the opportunity to gain experience in event management and work on campaigns and that is where I see my future.
“It was daunting going back to university at the age of 27, but I would definitely recommend it.
“I was able to draw on my professional experience throughout the course to develop my skills and knowledge.”
Deadlines were daunting, but fell at good times for the young mayor.
Cllr Millar added: “I was in class one day per week, however most of my coursework deadlines were due before my term as Mayor commenced.
“However, I did have to write my dissertation while juggling mayoral duties.”
A busy year
In what has been a busy year she says one of her highlights has been working with children and women.
“I’m passionate about opening up the office to children, young people and women.”
An event that had an impact on her and that to date has been one of her mayoral highlights was a special women's event, titled ‘Seven ages of Women’.
This event saw the first all-female team to use muscle power alone to ski coast-to-coast across Antarctica inspire an audience hosted by Cllr Millarand the Lord Lieutenant Mrs Joan Christie in the Braid.
On this occasion the audience heard the stories of seven inspirational local women from various backgrounds speaking about how their life experiences have shaped them.
Speakers included the woman's Northern Ireland football captain, the Council chief executive and local musicians and artists.
Cllr Millar said she has also greatly enjoyed working with children and visiting nursing homes.
In a closing comment, she said: “Christmas has been a great time for me as Mayor!
“ I've had lots of lights switch ons, Christmas tree visits, choir visits and I have managed to meet many people from all over the Borough, plus I've had the opportunity to work with Santa Clause on more than one occasion!”
The future looks bright for the Mid and East Antrim Mayor, as she sets her sights on a final busy period of Mayoral duties until the May Council elections, where she hopes to be re-elected by her constituents.
She concluded: “I just want to wish everyone in Mid and East Antrim a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and thank everyone for all their support to me over the past year.”