After 15 years of putting his community first, Councillor Jimmy Chen is retiring from local body politics to spend more time with his family.
Cr Chen entered local body politics in 2007 as a member of the Riccarton-Wigram Community Board. He served three years on the Board before being elected Councillor for the Riccarton-Wigram ward in 2010.
He successfully stood for re-election to the Council in 2013, 2016 and 2019 but now, at age 70, he has decided it is time to step aside.
“Over the past 15 years I have placed a high priority on the community, sometimes at the expense of my family,’’ Cr Chen admits. “After October, I am looking forward to having more time to be with my family.’’
Cr Chen came to Ōtautahi Christchurch from Taiwan in 1996 with his wife and two daughters. He worked initially as a professional interpreter before being encouraged to get involved in local politics.
The earthquakes, the Port Hills fires, the mosque attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic have coloured his years of public service. With all the challenges that Christchurch has faced, Cr Chen says having to make decisions on where to spend the Council’s limited funds has been one of the hardest aspects of his role as a Councillor.
“There is a big gap between residents’ demands and expectations and what Council can actually provide or supply within limited budgets.’’
Cr Chen has been involved in many big decisions, but is particularly proud of the role he played in securing funding for four big capital projects that will make a difference for his community – the new indoor pool complex, library and customer service area for the southwest of Christchurch (the Matatiki: Hornby Centre), the Halswell Junction Road extension project, the Hei Hei Community Centre and the Te Hapua Halswell Centre.
He is also proud of the work that he has done to strengthen Christchurch’s international connections and to advance multiculturalism.
He has chaired both the Council’s International Relations Working Group and the Council’s Multicultural Committee.
He led the development of Christchurch’s first Multicultural Strategy, in partnership with mana whenua, and has closely monitored its implementation as part of his commitment to helping Christchurch become a diverse, inclusive, harmonious and socially-cohesive city.
Cr Chen says Christchurch is far more welcoming now of different ethnicities than it was when he first arrived here.
“It is getting better, however, there is still a long way to go,’’ says Cr Chen, who received a Distinguished Service Award from the Christchurch Multicultural Council in 2020 for his contributions to making a Christchurch a more diverse and inclusive city.