Leader of Southampton City Council
Earlier this year, Southampton elected Daniel Fitzhenry as its new City Council Leader, taking the helm of a city in which he was born and bred.
It is the most recent milestone in Daniel’s remarkable political career, who at the age of just 14 was elected as the first member of the Youth Parliament to represent Southampton on a national scale.
As a business owner, and as a Politician, Daniel’s enthusiasm and positivity are driven by his abiding aspirations to help the city and its people to flourish. Here, the visionary leader explains why right now is Southampton’s era of opportunity.Connect on LinkedIn
How would you describe your style as a leader?
I think my style is positive and easy-going in the sense that I try to go with the flow. I’m a long-term thinker, I think about where we want to go and how we can bring people with us. I’m quite collaborative; I'm always looking at who we need to work with in order to solve problems. I like to work with people and enable them to get on with things.
As a young Politician, how do you think local and UK Politics is evolving?
When I was first elected to the Youth Parliament in 2001, locally there were very few young Councillors, and nationally there were fewer young Members of Parliament.
In the last 20 years, things have changed considerably. Both myself, and Satvir (Kaur) in her role as leader of the opposition, are both in our mid-30s. Nationally, David Cameron and George Osborne were both in their early 40s when they became Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Rishi Sunak as Chancellor now is only 41.
There's a whole new movement in all political parties. Situations like COVID and Brexit have made people more politically interested, breeding a new generation of people in politics. This is our moment of opportunity, it really is.
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"Situations like COVID and Brexit have made people more politically interested, breeding a new generation of people in politics."
Talk to us about your vision for Southampton. What are the biggest opportunities for the city right now?
We’re looking to 2030 for our vision for Southampton as a City of Opportunity to really start to come to fruition. Over the next two years, we’re focused on creating the energy, belief, enthusiasm, and passion to be able to go on the next leg of the journey. It’s really about unlocking all of the city’s talent and creating a place that enables things to happen.
We’re investing in the parks, open spaces, elements in the environment, and the business community, that allow creative people to solve problems and get going, and to in turn help other people to go on that journey. This is an incredible moment for our city.
What about the challenges?
I think that the great challenges that we face are around jobs changing in the marketplace, and the impact of COVID and long COVID in our communities, on mental and physical health.
The role of Government and partners is to help people develop their skill set, or perhaps take the plunge into being self-employed. I see places like the Old Bond Store as being really crucial in creating an environment where this can happen.
This City of Opportunity is about lifting people in the realms of their talent and passion, whether it be in creativity, business, community, or parenthood. The more we can tap into that, the more we lift mindsets, then we’ll start challenging the more deep-rooted problems like deprivation.
If you could change one thing in Southampton, what would it be?
I think the key to me in this city is our belief in ourselves. We can talk about becoming the City of Opportunity, or becoming net zero carbon by 2050, or the City of Culture, but if we don’t really believe, it’s not going to work.
The positive to come out of this negative pandemic situation is that everybody’s sense of belief and knowledge of what can be done has lifted because we’ve come such a long way together in a year.
The one thing I would change, and I believe we are changing, is our sense of belief in who we are, where we’ve come from, and what we are actually capable of. That to me unlocks everything.
What do you love most about the city?
The real thing that I love about this city is when I walk around I see this absolute goldmine of opportunities for everybody. The great thing about where we are right now is we’ve come a long way, but we can still be so much more than what we are. I love that because I’ve seen and been part of the journey so far.
I honestly believe we are in the middle of the greatest opportunity this city has ever had right now, and it’s a pleasure to be at the helm of that.
"I honestly believe we are in the middle of the greatest opportunity this city has ever had right now, and it's a pleasure to be at the helm of that."
You’re very approachable as a leader. How do you maintain a sense of connection with the people of Southampton?
We’re all people first. We’re dealing with different things, but we’re all the same in principle.
I think it’s important to know that even with the people that you disagree with, there are more commonalities than differentiators. I try to be a person first, with a job to do, rather than the job defining me.
Is there a leader who you particularly admire?
There are certain people that I get quite a lot of influence from. Wayne Dyer was an American speaker and started off as a psychologist and then moved into the realm of self-help, Jim Rohn who was Tony Robbins’ mentor, and Joe Dispenza a neuroscientist and speaker on the realms of possibility of life.
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