AOP Council elections

Stewart Mitchell: “Fresh voices are always important”

OT  speaks to AOP Councillor for Yorkshire and the Humber, Stewart Mitchell, as he steps down from Council in this year’s elections

After 10 years representing Yorkshire and the Humber on the AOP Council, optometrist and independent practice owner, Stewart Mitchell, will be standing down, with his position up for election this year.

Ahead of AOP Council nominations opening on 15 February, with a number of regional seats available for election and four appointed positions being available for application, OT sat down with Mitchell to talk about his experiences on Council.

Mitchell joined Council in 2013, filling one of two regional representative seats for Yorkshire and the Humber.

Having been approached to do some work for the Local Optical Support Unit (LOCSU) not long after it was established, he felt that the political side of the AOP was interesting. Subsequently, when an opportunity arose to become an AOP Councillor he embraced the opportunity to become more involved with the organisation.

“We influence the agenda in optometry and further afield,” he emphasised.

During his time on Council, Mitchell has witnessed it change structure and format with successful outputs.

“[Council meetings] were very formal and presentation-driven initially,” Mitchell shared, adding: “The more relaxed and interactive format now is engaging and productive.”

Aside from attending Council meetings, Mitchell describes a key role of being an AOP Councillor as acting as a “a contact for colleagues in your area.”

Personally, “working as an independent practitioner, the interaction that I have had with colleagues who work in a completely different practice environments over the years has been very useful and it’s been refreshing to be able to do that,” he said.

My time as a Councillor

Of his time on Council, Mitchell said: “I’m slightly sad about standing down, but it’s also important that people do step away from roles after a while because you do need to encourage other people to get involved.”

“You can’t have the same old people there all of the time. It doesn’t help the AOP or the profession – fresh voices are always important,” he added.

Encouraging peers to put themselves forward for AOP Council, Mitchell emphasised: “An election needs people to stand: it’s not a scary thing to do and it’s a very safe environment. There are plenty of people out there on LOCs in all areas of the country who are talented, and their voice and their opinion is necessary to have.”

“It’s been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to be involved and I would encourage anyone to stand,” he added.

To read more on Council elections and to find out how to put yourself forward, visit the AOP website.