Thursday, February 29, 2024

Kasson native now a town councilor in UK

Rebecca Meyer is a Kasson-Mantorville grad who grew up with two siblings in Kasson. Her sister lives in Spooner, Wis. and her brother lives in Kasson.

Growing up in this community, she enjoyed going out to her grandparents farm east of Kasson. They had various animals at their place including ducks. One Thanksgiving she realized that the ducks she would see in the yard ended up on the dinner table, and she had a hard time eating that day.

Rebecca participated in choir and track while at K-M. Since her father worked for the city, she would go swimming at the Kasson pool very often as she got a free pass. She loved to ice skate on the outdoor ice rink at the West Park that her father would help flood each winter (where the Kasson Library is now located). During high school she worked at the checkout lanes at Erdmans.

After graduation she attended RCTC and earned her associate degree. She then worked at several different jobs and temp positions in this area for a few years. She was looking at various jobs, and found a website where people wanted to learn Spanish, and she could speak the language. She had wanted to travel to England and found a guy on the website that responded, and she ended up going there.

Within a year and a half from meeting they were engaged. He was a lepidopterist and would take excellent photographs of moths and butterflies, and his photos appeared in magazines. When they would attend conferences, Rebecca said they were not really very interesting for her, so she would pass the time working with the registration table and reading magazines. Many of those attending the conferences were skilled medical doctors, but they did not seem to have great social conversation skills. Rebecca realized she and her husband were not really that compatible so she moved out, and they were divorced.

She then moved to Ludgershall Village which has around 2,000 people. This is part of the town of Andover and near the river Test, world famous for fly fishing.

She started working in the benefits office, and her job was to try to get people off the government system and back to work once again. Later she worked at Thomson Reuters with a headquar ters located in Eagan. It published legal, business, and regulatory information in print and electronic services, where she worked with imports and exports of books for the next 10 years.

She now works at a cooperative store in her community which handles groceries, alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets. She mentioned that cigarettes are more expensive in England, and even though they have some of the same brands their packs are in black and white colors. Her friend brought back 1,200 cigarette packs from the U.S., carried in extra suitcases (this is the legal amount that can be brought through customs), and turned a nice profit selling them to residents once back in England.

Rebecca does not have a vehicle herself but has obtained a UK Driver’s License. She takes public transportation as it is very efficient and inexpensive. It used to be free for those over 65 years old, but that has changed in the last couple of years. If she did drive, Rebecca would probably drive a truck, but the streets are quite narrow, with limited parking, and gas prices are around $10/gallon. Only 70% of women in England have a driver’s license and far less have a vehicle. You have to be 17 years old before you can get a license. Drivers training is only available through private companies, and the cost will be in the $3,500 range to qualify for a driver’s license.

Rebecca is eligible for their government health care, and she feels it is quite good. The U.S. healthcare system does a very good job with emergency care, but she feels England does a good job with their health care overall. There are comments made about poor dental care in England, and even though people pay taxes for dental care, many still complain. They don’t want to pay the small amount extra that the government doesn’t pay for such as to get their teeth cleaned, but will spend this amount at a pub on a regular basis, she said. People with good teeth would be generally considered to be more wealthy as it is an indication of higher social status because you have extra money to pay to keep your teeth in tip top condition. They do not add fluoride to their drinking water system like we do in the U.S.

Rebecca said the location where she lives would be considered a wealthy area, but the houses are quite small and located close together. She feels this closeness makes people more polite to each other. Since homes are expensive, many people will live with their parents until they are in their 30’s. After WWII there was a real shortage of men in the country as many were killed during the war, so they brought in immigrants from other countries. They were given free houses and government assistance but did not actually own the houses so could not pass them on to their children. There are now several generations of families who continue to live on the benefits, and do not hold a job. Many became truants, barely able to read, and continue to live off the government benefits.

Rebecca commented about the British royalty, which has been an enduring legacy for centuries. In the U.S. we have a President and First Lady, but they do not consider the Prime Minister’s wife a First Lady. They had Queen Elizabeth for over 70 years and she is the UKs longest reigning monarch.

Many people under the age of 30 are not in favor of continuing the monarchy that has continued for centuries. During a ceremony in London, Rebecca was trying to cross a barricaded street, and the police kept telling them to go. She was close to getting hit when William and Kate passed as they were crossing.

Henry VIII split from the Catholic church when he wanted a divorce, and he started the Church of England. King Charles is now the head of the Church of England, and citizens are taxed 1% which goes to the Royal Family. Twenty-five percent of the land is owned by the monarchy and Church of England in the UK.

People are required to fill out the census as the government wants to know much information about yourself. The British are very used to following the government rules, but countries like the U.S. broke away from their King, and people that immigrate to England also often do not follow the rules either. You are required to have a license to watch TV which costs $140/year, but if you fail to do this they will give you a warning and if you get caught again, they will fine you about $80 and tell you not to do it again.

People in the hierarchy have the power, so getting into the government gives people a lot of rights and much influence which is much like our people in Washington DC and state governments. The statement made about political officials in England is they are pale, male, and stale, and this certainly does not fit Rebecca!

Rebecca decided to run for office in her community as she wanted to make some changes. She was elected as a town councilor and the higher position of Deputy Mayor and Borough Councilor (similar to County Commissioner here). She was not elected to the latter higher positions this past year. An elected official needs to live in the district they serve, and when she moved, she is no longer in this district, but she will continue to stay in this elected position. The position of Deputy Mayor, which she previously held, does not need to win a popular vote of all the residents in the town, but only needs to influence about a dozen people that will nominate and elect you to that position. Rebecca needs to keep up to date on the legal issues, has chaired some of the town committees, has handed out grants for groups requesting them if she thinks it is a good idea, opened new businesses, worked with the police department, and she will turn on the Christmas lights in town.

Rebecca is also a member of the school board, which is a volunteer position, so she works with teacher hiring and other responsibilities. Upon the death of a monarch, each community has to announce this to their citizens in the town square. Rebecca said she represented the town of Andover as Deputy Mayor for the declaration of a King, but did not announce it herself.

She has dual citizenship and since she is an elected official (being a town councillor) she may sign documents, take declarations, confirm signatures and give certificates. This is considered a perk because it means she has authority, allowed extra police protection, and as a dignitary she is saluted during parades. She takes full advantage by giving anyone in a military or police uniform extra grief, usually in the form of telling them how handsome and what a great job they are doing as they are used to dignitaries being 75 and a man!

Rebecca said when British government officials make a threat, and you tell them I am not going to do that, they are surprised and will not follow up with their threat. When Rebecca told officials she was not going to comply with their rules, she told them go ahead and kick me out and they backed down. It gets to be a lot of theater in the political arena, and elected officials will yell and scream at each other behind closed doors but nothing becomes of it.

She really is not a fan of many English foods, but they do have a lot of fruits and vegetables available and are much cheaper than in the U.S. England is surrounded by ocean coastal areas, and are about an hour away from where these foods are grown. Since she works at a co-op grocery, she can pick up her food that she likes quite easily. Fish and chips are very popular on Fridays, and she really likes battered pineapple and other types of fritters. Curry foods have become quite popular, but Rebecca says these are too strong for her taste.

Rebecca gets paid a small amount from her political position and her job as a Team Leader at the Co-op, but most of it is not subject to taxes. She has money from the sale of the home she sold, and her boyfriend makes a good income so she is comfortable in her position.

She has run a half marathon, completed a marathon and runs 5k races on a regular basis. Many of these are done for charity. She generally stays in the back of the pack with the other slower runners and walkers, and lets the competitive racers stay far ahead and not get in their way. The town where she lives is about 60 miles from London. Rebecca said Stonehenge is only a few miles away, and she really doesn’t pay much attention to the hype about this site. Her area is the helicopter training site for all of the United Kingdom military, and there is a heavy flying presence.

Rebecca enjoys traveling and learning new languages when she goes. She has been to other countries including the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Greece, Tunisia, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and Nicaragua. She has not been to the Scandinavian countries as they are just too expensive to visit, she said.

The day Rebecca was flying to the U.S. in October there was a lot of confusion, and people were wondering what was going on. This was the day Israel was attacked, and they started to wonder if their flight would be affected.

Rebecca really wants to make a difference when she gets involved with any project. She feels too many people are afraid to try new things as they might fail, but if that happens to her, she is ready to move on and tackle a new adventure which she certainly has done!



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