Forty years after the town of Point Fortin was upgraded to borough status, Alderman Saleema Thomas is now changing the status quo as the first woman to serve as mayor of T&T’s cultural capital.
Following a brief ceremony at the Point Fortin Town Hall in Mahaica yesterday, Thomas donned her mayoral chain and got down to business, chairing her first statutory meeting.
As the former deputy mayor, she succeeded former mayor Kennedy Richards Jr, who won the Point Fortin seat for the People’s National Movement in the August 10 General Election. Speaking to reporters in chambers, Thomas said she hopes the honour of being the first woman to govern the borough’s affairs will inspire other young women to aspire to leadership roles.
“I feel humbled and honoured for the opportunity. It is a historic moment for the people of Point Fortin, being the first female mayor. It gives our young women the inspiration and that empowerment to know that they too can aspire, one day, to become mayor, prime minister, president or whatever they aspire themselves to be,” Thomas said.
Thomas said she feels no pressure either, as this is her second term in the council, adding she has not experienced any problems with her colleagues and burgesses up to now. She also plans to continue the projects started by the council led by Richards. However, she envisions the borough diversifying its sub-economy and exploring areas like agriculture and entrepreneurship.
“I envision Point Fortin, especially during these trying times, that we look towards agriculture, we look toward diversifying and encouraging our burgesses to become more self-reliant. As the Prime Minister once said, ‘eat what you grow’,” she said.
“We will want to encourage more home gardening. It is a project the council previously wanted to embark on, but due to COVID, we had to stop. So definitely, under my tenure, I would want to pursue that project so we can encourage our burgesses to eat what they grow.”
Thomas said while it is good for young people to go to school and study law, medicine and engineering, they should not limit their skill-set. She is encouraged them to start their own businesses, adding the corporation will support them by utilising the various government facilities.
The council will also work on renaming the market square the John Cupid Market Square in honour of the man who started the acclaimed Emancipation Day festivities in the borough.
There will also be an upgrade of the Victor Chin Kit Park and the roundabouts.
The 35-year-old Human Resource and Marketing graduate is a mother to two children, ages nine and five. Boasting of a young council with innovative minds, she said their work to uplift the borough can one day see it elevated to city status.
While COVID-19 is taking a toll on the state’s resources, Thomas said the corporation will seek partnerships with corporate citizens. She said the corporation will also ensure the Government’s COVID-19 measures are followed, and she advised everyone to stay informed of all the measures in place for their safety.
“We cannot take our health and our family’s health for granted. If you do not have to be out, it is my advice that you stay home and not try to add to the numbers. Those who have to go out, go, do what you have to do. Do it safely, follow the measures, practice your social distancing, wear your mask, wash your hands, sanitise before and after so that when you go back home to your families, you do not carry back the disease.”
The position of deputy mayor remains open. When Richards took up his Parliamentary role, he resigned as mayor and councillor for the electoral district of Hollywood. It triggered a by-election that is due within the next three months. Thomas said when the electorate elects a new councillor, the council will vote for a new deputy mayor.