Journey into governance
The driving force of tautua – to serve - has seen former Black Fern Izzy Ford (pictured) step into the unknown on numerous occasions, but the strong, independent woman has always been up for the challenge.
Her desire and ability to serve means the already busy wife and mother has added to her responsibilities by accepting the role of Deputy Mayor of Porirua and a seat on the Wellington Rugby Union Board, becoming the first female to do so in over 20 years.
It has been a little over a year since Izzy took up the role as Deputy Mayor of Porirua – a city in the Wellington region with a growing Pacific population – and it has been both challenging and rewarding.
“To be fair, it’s never been a goal to sit on boards let alone run for Council, but the journey into governance began with a desire to play a part in my children’s education without actually being in the classroom,” Izzy says.
After putting her name forward to sit on her children’s school board, she was elected and subsequently landed the Chair’s role.
“That first term was a baptism by fire … learning to bridge the gap between governance, management and community is no easy feat, and it starts with governance and management identifying and owning weaknesses before trying to preach, before we practice.”
Izzy’s role on the school board is what ultimately piqued her interest in governance roles which affect the future of the next generation, and which also have the added bonus of serving a community village that helped raise her, she adds.
Although born and raised in Porirua, Izzy is “forever a daughter of Samoa”, with a little Fijian blood running through her veins – her father’s paternal grandmother hails from Kadavu, Fiji.
Her parents were hard core unionists, who fought for rights of the underprivileged, she explains.
“They were on committees, school and church committees, the workers behind the scenes, making change happen…so I guess they sort of set the tone for me,” she adds.
As Deputy Mayor, Izzy steps in on behalf of the Mayor at events when he is absent, while also performing the same duties as councillors.
“Being accessible to people through different mediums, hearing the stories of our people from all walks and being able to advocate on behalf of people, and to serve our people are key to duties of the role.”
In April last year, Izzy became the first woman in over 20 years to serve with the Wellington Rugby Board.
Representing New Zealand at rugby with the Black Ferns from 1999 to 2005, Izzy feels her role on the Board provides an avenue to give back to a sport which has helped shape her as a person.
“My time with the Black Ferns was so special, and I was so privileged to have spent that with an amazing bunch of people.
“There are so many lessons learnt from my time with the Ferns - the key ones that spring to mind are, discipline, respect, belief and all for a collective goal for the sisterhood.”
Izzy is enjoying the challenge of working on the Wellington Rugby Board, and is focused on how exactly she can impact change primarily in the growth of the women’s game.
Family is paramount for Izzy, whose amazing energy sees her and husband Glynn raising three children - Jayden, 14, Taylah, 9, and Bella, 6.
“All three are pretty active and probably know a bit more about politics than I ever knew at their respective ages,” she quips.
They are all sporty like their mum, and all three belong to Wellington Samoan Golf Academy.
The academy has been founded by the Samoan High Commissioner to help remove the barriers to the game of golf.
Also like their mother, there are aspirations to play at the top level of their chosen sport.
Jayden sports a scratch handicap and has the ultimate goal of playing on the PGA Tour, Izzy says.
Just as Izzy’s parents fought for the underprivileged, Izzy sees it has part of her duty to help drive success for disadvantaged Pasifika.
“To me, success for Pasifika is Pasifika being represented on the right side of the stats in education, health, suicide, employment and home ownership,” Izzy says.
“It all starts with owning and accepting the things we can change not only via government agencies but within.
“We were not put here to be average - all of you have a purpose and you should make it your mission to discover what that it is.
“Find out what that is and do it on purpose.”