In 2018, when he was a 17-year-old secondary school pupil, Hendrik van Hout stood for election to the local council of the Brabant municipality of Gemert-Bakel on behalf of CDA (‘Christian Democratic Appeal’). Since he was only ranked 16th on CDA’s list of candidates, he knew he had little chance of being elected to a seat, but at the time, he was mostly interested in the experience, anyway. Now, four years later, things are quite different. He ended up serving on the municipal council in 2021, after all, and is currently busy campaigning. As a result, his part-time degree in law at EUR is temporarily on the back burner.

Waste paper recycling

It might seem quite a leap from being ranked 16th on a party’s local list to actually serving on the council, but when it comes to CDA in Gemert-Bakel, it’s not much of a leap. In 2018, the party obtained 11 out of the municipality’s 23 seats, and since several councillors have moved on to aldermen’s portfolios or moved to different municipalities in the past three years, CDA’s leaders ended up contacting Van Hout last summer. “They asked if I was willing to serve on the municipal council until the elections. I always felt that if I have an opinion on something and wish to change things, I must actively seek to do so. So I thought this was a wonderful opportunity.”

Except there was a problem. Since he was doing two degrees at EUR and Leiden University, Van Hout no longer lived in Brabant, having moved to The Hague instead. “So I had to return home, which took some getting used to. But I’d just completed one of my degree programmes, so timing was great.” In most respects, Van Hout really enjoyed the time he spent on the council. “You get to be one of twenty-three people who are allowed to make decisions on your municipality. That is quite the honour. But I did have to get used to all the political games you sometimes have to deal with.”

By way of example, he refers to one of his key aims. “I was in favour of introducing letterbox stickers saying ‘No/No’ to direct mail as the default option, meaning people would have to actively indicate that they wish to receive advertisements and regional newspapers. This would save a huge amount of paper. However, my fellow councillors were not too keen on the idea, because many clubs in the village collect people’s waste paper (for which they get paid – ed.). I understand why some people were against it, but I hoped we’d get it done, anyway.”

Great adventure

Even though he cherishes his memories of his political career so far, he is now ranked 14th on the party’s list and very unlikely to be elected to the council. His low ranking is not because his fellow party members don’t have any faith in him. “I want to return to student life. I’ll be able to serve on the council for the rest of my life, and I think that, once I’ve gained a little more experience, I’ll be able to play a more important part. But it was a great adventure. I’m glad I did it. I don’t regret it one bit.”