In May of 2011, I was elected to Mendip District Council and became the youngest person ever to be elected to the authority. I could barely think as they were counting the votes, and by the time the result was announced, I could do nothing but cry. Cry with relief, exhaustion and confusion at everything that had happened. Election campaigns, as many of you will know are (as a good friend once said) the best of times and the worst of times. They're incredible. There's no feeling like being involved in something that you're so passionate about, side by side with others who are equally committed. That accepted, they're so draining. I love knocking on doors and chatting with people, but doing it for hours on end is incredibly tiring - you can't help but start to be dead behind the eyes by the time you've finished.
During my time campaigning for public office, and whilst a Councillor, I've done some things that will never fail to make me grin from ear to ear. What's more, I've worked with some people who have become my best friends and who inspire me. Before I was elected, Helen Sprawson-White and I joined a campaign to protect Frome Library from funding cuts coming down the line from County Hall Conservatives. That campaign was successful, and I'm proud of it. When the Conservatives tried cutting funding for Young Carers, I campaigned against it and they backed down. I'm proud of that, and I'm proud that at last year's Autumn Conference the LibDems committed to rolling out Pupil Premium to Young Carers to ensure they're given better support in school. When Council Tax Benefit was cut, I worked with my colleague Claire Hudson to make sure that the Council removed discounts for empty and second homes rather than cutting support for the most vulnerable. My colleague Adam Boyden has to be one of the best people I've worked with - he's reached across party boundaries to tackle fly-tipping and he's helped with my own casework when I wasn't well enough to do it myself. It's to these people and others that I owe a great debt of gratitude.
As a County Councillor, I worked with local people and politicians from other parties to have the 267 Bus reinstated to Rode and it still makes me smile to take the bus through that village today. As a County Councillor, I was able to put questions to our Police and Crime Commissioner, asking her what she would do to tackle FGM - not just in Bristol - but in rural areas where such issues are too often ignored or assumed not to exist.
I'm proud of many of the things I've done and I've enjoyed my time as a Councillor, but I can't pretend that public office isn't taxing. I can't pretend that I've found every minute easy or simple - it hasn't been.
That's why I've decided not to stand for Council again in May. I've done my four years, and I've enjoyed them. To be chosen by the people you grew up with to represent them is one of the greatest privileges a person can ever have, it's one I'm thankful for. I'll be working in Somerton and Frome to make sure that we bolster our position in Local Government as well as electing David Rendel our next MP. David isn't flashy, he doesn't pull gimmicks - but he cares very passionately about local people. He's a good man and I hope that local people send him to Parliament on our behalf.
I don't honestly know what my next step is. As I'm finishing my degree, I'm entering a period where I have to consider my future career and all of the options open to me. Whilst I have an inkling I might end up running for office again at some point in the future, I'm so happy that I can move forward in the knowledge that at least in some small way, I was able to stand up and make something of a difference. I think that's probably all we can ever hope for in life, so thank you for allowing me that.
I'll still be blogging (for blogging read ranting) here, so watch this space.