How did I end up in these parts? A query commonly flung across our bar. Divorced, disillusioned, and couldn’t move any further away without getting wet – my rehearsed response.

This week marks fifteen years since hauling belongings and dented heart from East England to west Wales – the best part of 14 years spent up among the Pontrhydygroes hills – a year and a bit down in Aber town centre. Fifteen years that sometimes feels like a lifetime but more often the passing of an instant. However, little more illuminates this extensive sweep of time than when tiny infants one instructed in primary school cricket, now knocking six foot, now enveloped with beard, are found Friday evening lounging in Irie’s Bar sipping on a rum and Red Bull. It is clear that beyond a healed heart, much else has moved on over the past decade and a half.

Never have I lived within one community so long, and watching over little ones growing up is the most precious pleasure to nestling down. But the truth is this priceless uncle-like experience could have happened wherever I chose to lay my hat. What makes the difference is, much by chance, I settled right here on this delightful sliver of Welsh coast.

Never has an outsider felt such a sense of belonging – part of a place – fitting like a misplaced jigsaw piece finally slotted into perfect position – duty bound to contribute to the overall picture. I am not the only one. For particularly since the hippy influx of the ‘70s, misfits, outsiders, idiosyncratic individuals of all sorts have abandoned one rat-race or another and found sanctuary around these peaceful low-income hills. We are rolling stones forestalled, wrapped in moss by a progressive indigenous population. Together, a mellow melting pot of far-flung experiences and local knowledge that make for the unique, independent-minded, and altruistic society we enjoy.

A downside is that after this long but fleeting 15 years, from some angles, both Aberystwyth and I have come to appear increasingly weatherbeaten. Somewhat crumbling and neglected it has been said. But knowing the stories of so many residents and businesses, I understand that beneath Aberystwyth’s creaking and cracking facade there still resides a vital soul replete with ambition for better tomorrows.

So why, looking around, are we always in such a mess? Why so broke? Why still this dirty old town? Why the talk of downsizing the region’s educational capacity? Why fewer buses and a useless railway service? I could go on and on but you get the point. With so many dutiful and capable people around, why is everything such a shambles?

The unavoidable conclusion is that our impoverished and sparsely populated region is (or always was) an afterthought amid the party politics of Wales and utterly irrelevant to the thinking of those in Westminster. Policies that suit Cardiff and the Home Counties are rarely in the best interests, more often to the detriment of rural and coastal mid Wales. Here, we are not even an afterthought.

An obvious reason is that party politicians are partisan candidates with one eye on Cardiff or Westminster and the other flitting between job security and personal advancement. Professional party-aligned politicians are unlikely and unmotivated to take a clear-eyed position on regional issues and in any case are unable to take any stance departing from metropolitan party lines. In habitually electing candidates from mainstream political parties, mid Wales is left with only political impotence and economic crumbs. A forgotten patch dislocated from the mainstream. A region screaming out for more local independent political representation.

More independent candidates. The problem is that although many good people are willing to expend the considerable time and resources required to pick up the pieces of political failure and ineptitude (for instance, the community effort recently deployed to ensure the appropriate marking of Aberystwyth’s Remembrance Day was not lost amid local government squabbles and failures), few qualified people are willing to take a firm grip on the levers of local power in order to prevent the next round of chaos.

Qualified? What do you mean? It was Plato who suggested that ‘only those who do not seek power are qualified to hold it’. So, our councillors, our Members of Parliament and Members of the Senedd, even our Police and Crime Commissioners should be reluctant but dutiful residents free to operate outside of metropolitan and party political interests. In other words, your county needs you.

At a gloomy but critical moment when fewer than four in 10 of us were motivated to vote at the last council elections, young and older candidates need to get up, stand up to better represent us. Needs us all to encourage, support, and most importantly, to vote for qualified local residents prepared to stand independently for public office. Ignore mainstream party politicians for they must ignore us here in mid Wales. And remember, we cannot lose a voice we do not have.