The stylish and affable Fianna Fáil Councillor proved to be a popular ambassador for Waterford during his time as First Citizen which draws to a close this month.
“Everyone else says it was a quick year, but for me it probably was a long year,” he admits.
“It comes with a lot of stress. People might not think it, but it’s a hard slog. There’s no training in this job, you’re into it straight away. I was told to go in and that there would already be stuff on my desk ready to for me to do.”
He decided to become a “full-time” Mayor in order to give the role all of his commitment.
“I decided there was no point going into an employer and saying, ‘By the way, I’m going to be Mayor this year.’ I decided I may as well forget about that side of my life and focus on this completely,” he explained.
“If you are going to be the First Citizen, the position deserves that commitment.”
Adam, who turned 23 last week, admits that he was daunted and extremely nervous
about taking up the prestigious position.
“I was actually scared,” he said.
“When anyone starts a new job they have doubts and wonder if it’s for them and if they will be able to do it.”
However, the circumstances in which he originally came onto the Council had in some ways prepared him for dealing with such responsibility.
Aged just 19, he was co-opted onto Waterford City Council in late 2013 after his father Gary’s untimely death.
“I was kind of thrown in at the deep end when I went into politics first, so I’ve learnt to swim fairly fast,” he explained.
Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly he has had to deal with much focus on his age, including some negative comments through social media.
“I’ve had comments from people saying I shouldn’t be anywhere near the Council, I’m only there because of my Dad, and that I don’t know what I’m talking about,” he said.
“One of my favourites was that I should be more worried about what I get in McDonald’s Happy Meal than what goes on inside the Council!! But I genuinely don’t get that much negativity, as most people know that’s not the best way to get something out of me.”
He had seen fellow young Councillors serve in a Mayoral capacity during the previous year (his Fianna Fáil colleague Cllr Eamon Quinlan as Metropolitan Mayor and Fine Gael’s John Cummins as Mayor of Waterford City & County) and admits he was able to get a few jokes from the ‘age issue’.
“Some people who had met Eamon or John as Mayor said ‘Oh, you’re so much younger’. I always replied ‘That’s the way we do it in Waterford, the next Mayor is still in primary school!”
However, Adam Wyse isn’t in favour of having young people in politics just for the sake of it.
“I hate when people say you need young people in politics – you just need fresh ideas and new thinking. If you’re committed to the job, age doesn’t come into it,” he said.
“There may be a bit of youthful naivety on my side, but I’m sure experience can hurt you sometimes as well. I would have a lot of qualities that other Councillors may not have, but they also have qualities that they can pass onto me.”
He can vividly recall the family discussion which took place about who should replace his father on the Council.
He was into his second year in WIT, and while he says he was interested in government spending and how the Dáil works, he never envisaged entering politics.
“But my Dad always said if anyone in the family was to go into politics it would have been me,” he explained.
“When we were told someone from the family could take his seat my two brothers said straight away ‘Adam, you do it’.”
When his father became a Councillor in 2009, Adam was in third year in secondary school.
“He used to drop me into school and we would have good discussions about whatever was happening,” he recalled.
“And anytime there was an article about him in the paper, he’d show it to us. We would have chatted about how we should act, treat people with respect and he would always say ‘if you’re going to do something do it right, don’t take any half measures’. That’s one thing I’ve always thought of during the year. If you’re going to do something, do it right and don’t do anything half-heartedly as you’re only wasting your own time and other people’s time. ”
A favourite phrase of his father’s which Adam often uses, and which he mentioned in his first speech as Mayor, is ‘Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up.’
A visit to his father’s ‘Classic Carpets’ store on O’Connell Street shortly after his death brought home to Adam how much work his father was doing as a pubic representative.
“I saw the amount of emails and letters about things he was working on and his schedule of things to do. He was always thinking about how he could help other people,” he said.
“I didn’t get as much time with my Dad as you’d feel you deserve. You feel that something has been taken away from you when something like that happens. But I feel for my sister even more. She was only 12 when it happened and that’s not long enough for a daughter to get with her father.”
When his two brothers Darren and Jason (who affectionately refer to Adam as ‘Mayor Quimby’ in reference to ‘The Simpsons’ character) moved to Dublin, Adam grew very close to his sister Natasha and mother Michelle while living at home.
“A family support network is massively important in politics and life,” he said.
He fondly recalls the day he was elected Mayor and described it as an “emotional occasion”.
“I always think about the very first day and the first hour,” he said.
Michelle and Natasha were unavoidably absent as they were both in America at dancing competitions, however he had a large contingent of supporters present including his grandparents and many friends of his late father.
“My Dad was an ordinary man from a working class background with four kids who upscaled during the good times and then things became difficult during the bad times,” he explained.
“If you asked him what would have been his dream job he would have said Mayor of Waterford. Not because of the stature, but for him, as a young fella from John’s Park, he would have absolutely loved to have been able to represent the people of Waterford that highly.”
Adam says he is extremely close with his grandparents who he says have always provided experience and advice.
“My grandmother Eileen is still living in John’s Park, and whenever I’m in the area, people don’t ask about me, it’s always ‘how’s Eileen?!’ he laughs.
His grandparents on his mother’s side have compiled three scrapbooks full of cuttings from the local papers of their grandson’s year as Mayor which they will present to him shortly.
And they certainly had plenty of material to collect given the huge amount of events he has attended throughout the year.
“It’s popular to say on social media ‘Oh, the Mayor goes to the opening of an envelope’ or that ‘he gets paid €100,000 to hand out school certs’,” he said.
“Sometimes you’d love to reply and say ‘No, I was invited to attend this event – and I don’t get paid €100,000!’”
He is grateful to have been invited to so many events and says that through attending community events and hosting Mayoral receptions, he has realised the huge amount of talent which exists in Waterford.
The official opening of the Waterford Greenway in Kilmacthomas was one of the highlights of his tenure as Mayor – an event which he says he was “excited about the whole year”.
One unlikely event which also stands out as a highlight is the meeting of the National Association of Widows which took place at Dooley’s Hotel.
“I never thought at 22 years of age that I would be addressing the National Association of Widows, but I had a brilliant time. When I look back on the year, it was probably one of the best events I attended,” he said.
“I got up in front of around 200 lovey women and chatted about Waterford for about 20 minutes. I got a lovely letter a week afterwards thanking me.”
He says the reaction from events like this highlights the importance of the role of Mayor to providing recognition to many different groups.
However, he admits that he still gets nervous at certain events.
“I don’t really feel the nerves that I used to feel going into meetings,” he said.
“But I still get nervous before big events or big speeches when the pressure is on. You’re the lead man and you have to start things off. The event I probably enjoyed most, but was most nervous for, was the Waterford Chamber Business Awards.”
He says he was “slightly intimidated” with so many prominent business people in attendance.
However, anyone who has attended an event at which Adam Wyse has spoken at will have been impressed by his cool persona and will attest to the fact that he has been more than capable at holding his own.
He has delivered many impressive speeches in a very natural manner and says that 90 per cent of his speeches are delivered ‘off the cuff’.
This impressive impromptu public speaking skill is something he has honed throughout the year.
He writes many speeches on small scraps of paper and admits he wrote one speech on the packet of an air freshener (“It was on the podium so nobody could see it!”).
“I’m in the habit of throwing down three or four words on a cereal box if I have to,” he revealed.
“It’s easy to talk about something when you care about something. A few times I have gone blank, but you just talk about Waterford.”
He had laid down a marker for what was to come by delivering an impressive speech at his inauguration which won him many plaudits.
He says college helped with public speaking, but says it was never something which he was fully comfortable with.
“Going into my first year and being told that I had to do presentations in front of the class had me thinking ‘why did I sign up for this?’ But you have to overcome those fears,” he said.
Overcoming those fears is all the more remarkable given that he struggled with a lisp and attended speech therapy when he was younger.
“I wasn’t naturally confident growing up,” he said, adding that he experienced some bullying because of his lisp.
He says he still experiences this lisp on certain letters.
Despite this, he has proved more than capable at all of his tasks including the unenviable job of chairing Council meetings and keeping his fellow Councillors in check.
This proved challenging at times, including at the December plenary meeting when he chastised some fellow Councillors for “grandstanding”.
His mettle was also tested during the two meetings held to ratify the Council’s 2017 Budget at which there were some fiery exchanges.
“I knew coming in as Mayor that a few Councillors would test me,” he said.
“Some took me on, but I’d like to think they did it in a friendly way in terms of trying to make me feel more comfortable. I enjoyed the challenge and enjoyed having to stand up for myself.”
While many of his friends know what they will be doing on any given day in their job, he says one thing which he struggled with during the year was that every day was different.
He lives with four friends who he said saw him “coming in and out at absolutely mad times” and recalled a period in December when he had engagements for 19 consecutive days.
“But it was my decision. I decided to do whatever I could do and have a break after Christmas,” he explained.
Adam, who says he was always interested in becoming a journalist, hasn’t ruled out a run at national politics but he concedes that he will “probably have to give up on the dream of being a footballer!”
“I’ve always been opinionated which can hurt and help. I would have loved to have been a sports journalist and, growing up, I always wanted to be a football commentator or pundit,” he said.
“I always liked the idea of being a journalist and meeting people, and not just sport, but digressing into different issues. I did all the aptitude tests in school and they all said similar things like screenwriter, journalist, author. I might write a book some day!”
He always liked English and won the Sean Dunne Young Writers Award when a student in Scoil Lorcáin.
“I still have that award in my room,” he revealed.
“I’m living in a rented house, but I brought it with me. It’s something I really enjoy having a look at every so often.”
He says he feels honoured to have served as Mayor but is looking forward to giving someone else the opportunity.
“They will have one hell of a year,” he said.
“I don’t have any regrets and I wouldn’t change anything. But it’s a crazy way to live for a year! You walk through town and meet so many people and get pulled into different shops. My friends don’t come to Tesco with me anymore to do the weekly shop as it takes too long.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to walking down the street and instead of people saying ‘there’s the young Mayor’ they will say ‘there’s the old Mayor!’”
One last hurrah is his upcoming trip to represent Waterford in New York next week.
He will have a number of important engagements during a busy itinerary.
Although some people may dismiss such trips as “junkets”, and he admits he would have been sceptical of such trips himself prior to becoming Mayor, he now realises the importance of such visits.
“I’ve noticed the amount of people who have visited Waterford throughout the past year – the
Estonian Ambassador, Norwegian Ambassador etc. It’s important to have those connections and I’m looking forward to going to a different country and representing Waterford,” he said.
So, although Adam Wyse may be preparing to step away from the limelight for a while after a busy year as Mayor, we are sure to hear of his name in Waterford for many years to come.