The fates were always likely to decree that John Cummins would enter the political sphere.
Waterford City Council’s youngest member (21) and a recent graduate of Physical Education and Geography from the University of Limerick, John can recall dropping leaflets into letterboxes while still wearing short trousers!
In those early days, wearing out shoeleather with his father Maurice, a former Mayor and current Senator, John could scarcely have realised that he would grow up to press the flesh and taste election success.
But here he is, a representative of Waterford South, a role he’s been growing accustomed to since June 5th.
A black notebook by his side is, one imagines, rarely out of John’s sight, while a pile of letters on a sitting room table await posting.
He also mentions that he is dealing with 55 separate issues at the moment. For example, the discarded lifebuoys on the Tramore Road Riverwalk and the unsightly after-effects of work at the front of Manor Lawn are just two items he’s keen to address.
All in all, his workload defies the notion that this a quiet time for our elected officials.
“If this is the quiet time, I don’t know what the busy time is going to be like,” quipped Cllr Cummins over a cup of tea in his Ursuline Court home on Friday last.
And given that John went from his final (and successfully negotiated) exams in UL straight into the hustle of an election campaign, there’s been precious quiet time enjoyed since February.
It would be unfair to describe being elected as a consolation given that John has yet to secure a teaching position, but he could see where the thrust of the question was coming from.
“People did say to me after the election, well, at least I have something,” he said.
“I’m very grateful to the people that voted for me in large numbers in my first time out. It was a huge achievement to get the third seat out of five in such a tight electoral area.”
His political DNA is something John Cummins has frequently addressed these past few months.
“It was always there growing up,” he said of politics. “It was the talk at the dinner table.”
He added: “But from a personal basis, I only really got involved in the last three to four years, joining Young Fine Gael when I went to Limerick and in November 2007 I re-established the Young Fine Gael branch in Waterford. But when the chance came to run in the local election, I jumped at it.”
WIT’s upgrade to university status tops his agenda. “I’ve seen how highly skilled people have been attracted to Limerick thanks to its University – and that’s an essential element which is missing in Waterford.”
Anti-social behaviour comes second on his list of priorities. “It’s a huge issue, not just in Waterford of course but it’s something which needs to be tackled head on through the Forum on Community Policing. We need to nip it in the bud.”
Thirdly, the re-development of the North Quay and Ard Rí area is essential to boost the city’s attractiveness for a whole host of reasons.
“The whole area is an eyesore and has been for quite some time. We need a conference centre, a big venue – it’s something that the city is really lacking.
“Hopefully someone with an eye to the future will come in and be willing to develop the area, especially with the Tall Ships returning.”
Does he seek counsel from his father when it comes to matters political? “Yeah, we spoke a lot before I decided to run for election,” he said.
“Anyone in politics will tell you that it’s your family and friends that ultimately get you elected and they were a great help and support to me throughout.
“I also consulted with Senator Paudie Coffey, who is a good friend of mine and he provided me with an independent voice, as in he’s not my father and is someone who had a big involvement in politics.
“The advice that Paudie gave me certainly helped. He laid out the pros and the cons for me but at the end of the day it was my decision to make.”
Having already sat through the July meeting of Waterford City Council, John Cummins is looking forward to the cut and thrust of those ‘first Monday’ debates.
“I know it’s going to take a few months to settle in, to familiarise myself with procedures and the like, but after that it’ll be all guns blazing in the Council chamber!”