16, going on 17

Ahead of this year’s local council elections, our legislators enabled local councillors as young as 16 or 17 to become mayors and deputy mayors. Should this be good or bad news? It was never a question of if but when. Indeed, it had been promised in Labour’s electoral manifesto. The PN, too, appears of the same opinion.

Once the legislator today deems a 16-year-old sufficiently and reasonably capable of reaching an informed and formed decision as to whom to vote, why shouldn’t he or she run for mayorship or as a deputy mayor?

At next June’s local elections, councillors as young as 16 or 17 will be eligible to become mayors and deputy mayors. File photo: Mark Zammit CordinaAt next June’s local elections, councillors as young as 16 or 17 will be eligible to become mayors and deputy mayors. File photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

So will the next batch of bait-and-switch mayoral races focus on grand visions rather than the skills needed to excel at the job? 

How you get the job of mayor is very different from how you get the job done well once you have it. Reflecting on what the job really is – and what each candidate is capable of in managing a complex organization – is vital because executive acumen is an essential skill for turning civic vision into civic reality. Resting on vision alone isn’t nearly enough.

There are key skills and responsibilities that can make or break a newly elected mayor. Of course, the age factor does come into play. Undoubtedly, for many parents, though, there’s always the question of when do kids become adults. The idea that there is an age limit to childhood and a clean line in the sand for one’s entry into adulthood is a hard sell.

While the law says one thing (at age 18, you’re legally considered an adult), science sheds some light on our brain’s inner workings to show us why adulthood is not a simple matter of age. As children mature past late adolescence into early adulthood, significant changes in their brain anatomy and activity are still going on and brain maturation continues far later into development than previously believed.

The mayor’s job is big and sprawling and a lot harder than one thinks, more so for 16-year-olds. A successful mayor should possess a broad range of skills that encompass both interpersonal and professional abilities. Key skills include political savvy, persuasion, negotiation, financial management, empathy, decision-making, communication and, most important of all, leadership.

Reservations about whether this new law was timely and needed abound.

Could it be, then, that the next move will be to lower the age required for eligibility for membership in the House of Representatives (currently 18 according to article 53 of the constitution) to 16?

Mark Said LL.D. – Msida

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.