Home » News
Watson, councillor to emulate
IN the June 19 Local Government elections who are seeking
a role model to emulate to successfully develop their division
need look no further then Manchester. Anthony Watson is retiring
after 17 years as PNP councillor for the Mile Gully division
in North West Manchester at the age of 49. Since 1986 he has
overseen the development of this rural division and he can
retire knowing that he has improved the quality of life of
the residents of the Mile Gully division.
GULLY BORN AND BRED
Watson is proud to be Mile Gully born and bred. A graduate
of Holmwood Technical High School and the College of Arts
Science and Technology (CAST), now the University of Technology,
he was a member of the vibrant Mile Gully Community Club in
the early 1980s. The members of this club saw the need for
improved infrastructural and educational facilities. No high
school, post office, or running water were present and the
road network needed upgrading. This concern caused the members
to develop a 10-year community development plan which Mr.
Watson helped to put into place when he was elected Councillor.
The initiation of these plans by the community paved the way
for all future projects to be implemented and initiated by
of the first matters which was addressed was education and
training. At the Mile Gully training centre, programmes for
both males and females were established. For the women, "home
management" was started with the help of the Social Development
Commission (SDC) who paid a stipend to older women in the
community. The aim of this programme was to train younger
women basics such as cooking and sewing. The young men were
taught English and Maths. Mile Gully now boasts a new high
school which was built three years ago. In addition to this
building, the World Bank will be funding a new high school
which will be built in three to five years. When this is done,
the primary school will move to the building housing the current
high school, thus vacating the trade training centre building
which it now occupies.
CAST, Mr. Watson attended the University of Wisconsin, White
Water. Here he noticed that the computer equipment was changed
every three years. This motivated him to link with the University's
Education Department. This was the genesis of an exchange
which is still ongoing whereby staff from the University of
Wisconsin conduct workshops with the Association of Basic
School Teachers in Mile Gully. Examples of the workshops include
conducting physical education activities in limited spaces.
The visiting university staff now also work with the Northern
Caribbean University and the Bethlehem Teachers' College.
improvements include the upgrading of the road network surrounding
Mile Gully. A health clinic has been established at Mile Gully
which is open Monday to Friday; the division also has a new
community centre and sports complex. The community centre
was built at a cost of $3 million, but instead of contracting
the work out to outsiders, it was done by the community. The
adjoining sports complex was funded by the Sports Development
success of Mile Gully's development is based on involving
as many groups in the community as possible. Mr. Watson was
able to do this because as a youngster he played football
and cricket for Mile Gully. The resulting popularity allowed
him to cross party lines and be accepted by the entire community.
This de-tribalisation of Local Government operations is still
evident in the absence of a PNP sign on his divisional office.
When materials such as fertiliser are distributed to farmers,
it is done through various community groups to benefit supporters
of all political parties. He said initially there was resistance
to this because "people are not accustomed to that kind
of thing." But he said that he "succeeded in getting
the community to realise that the development of the community
is in their hands".
JOB WELL DONE
Watson gives two reasons for retiring. The first is the fact
that most of what was listed in the 10-year plan have been
implemented. The only outstanding matter is the lack of running
water in Mile Gully, which he says is "one-third of the
way to completion". However, he is happy to note that
toilet facilities are present in Mile Gully. The second is
that he has been transferred by WINDALCO to the Ewarton office
in St. Catherine, and he "doesn't want to be a half-councillor".
he says that "sometimes I get frustrated because of the
system which retards things", Anthony Watson describes
his time as councillor as "17 glorious years". He
knows that no matter who is elected councillor on June 19,
the projects will be sustained because they are people-based
community projects. This is what Local Government should be