A very confident and accomplished regional public servant Mrs. Mignon Phillips, wife of Prime Mark Phillips.
An accomplished regional public servant she is, Mignon Bowen- Phillips recently retired from the Caricom Secretariat where she spent some 32 years.
She retired a few days ago having joined the Secretariat in 1988 as a clerk.
She would moved on to further qualify herself, a holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and her last stint at Caricom was as Project Officer responsible for the documentation centre and registry. But who is Mignon Bowen-Phillips?
Mrs Phillips is a mother of one and wife of Prime Minister Rtd Brigadier Mark Phillips.
But she is not known to be in the spotlight much, she is not even involved in politics one would say, and she was quick to point that out when this publication sat with her for her first interview.
Mrs Phillips is a regional public servant at heart, she spoke about her love for her job and the people she worked with, a “melting pot” of the region she referred to her former office as.
An advocate for good governance and upholding the rule of law, Mrs Phillips shared a bit of her work life that kept her occupied and focused over the years.
We heard about the elections she observed as part of various Caricom Observer Missions and how her love for her work led her to travel as well as organising social events.
This passion to serve the people is rooted in what was instilled in her as a child.
She came from a humble home led by her parents, a tailor and a housewife. Mrs Phillips grew up in North East La Penitence, she would attend the East La Penitence Primary School and later the South Georgetown Secondary School.
Her first job was at the National Insurance Company she told us, then Bank of Guyana where she worked in the Exchange Control Department before she left for CARICOM.
During those years, Mrs Phillips did not miss out on an opportunity to learn from courses at Carnegie School of Home Economics to sewing, cooking and other evening classes, she found ways to add value to her talent pool.
“My mother is someone who use to tell myself and my sister Gillian, it pays every young girl to get a job, so I always see myself as being able to go to work and earn a decent income,” Mrs Phillips told us.
With such accomplishments, we asked what her advice to other women would be.
“I would say to young girls, they should always try to be themselves, try always to be your own beacon of light, we are all different individuals, we are not on the same path, stay in your lane, focus on your yourself, develop yourself as an individual and you can never can tell along the road of life’s journey, you will meet somebody that is compatible, with your dreams and aspirations, and you’ll become a perfect team.”
Mrs Phillips likes a life out of the spotlight but she knew that would have changed when her husband decided to run for political office.
The family would have had a taste of the spotlight when the Prime Minister served as Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force.
She recalled her husband prepping the family for a discussion on his political pursuit. She was at work when he called saying he wanted to discuss an issue.
“I said to myself, what could this conversation be ? but being a good wife, I got home and did dinner, he brokered the thought that he was thinking about getting involved in politics, mind you before that whole conversation, he was really concerned about what happened in the country after the no confidence motion.”
Once that conversation was over, the Prime Minister would get his family’s support, “I said to him, you really sure you want this ? and he said he felt it was the right thing for him to do.”
Mrs Phillips said the discussion mirrored one the family had before when her husband was one of four officers being interviewed for leadership in the GDF.
She recalled then how her life changed, “serving as the Chief of Staff and being his wife, came to me as a great invasion of privacy, you’re now high profile, I had to be careful what I said, I had to be careful about making new friends, I had to be careful about dealing with some of friends that I had also, because it was important that I did not place myself, in a position where, I have been misquoted on anything.”
Mrs Phillips employed her own form of censorship once her husband started his political career.
“I had to be careful not to wear certain colours at work, because of the organisation. You know every Monday I wore my red shoes to work, you know I had to stop wearing my red shoe, my red brooch, because I didn’t want to give anybody a chance to say that I was campaigning for any political party,” she said.
The family was concerned about being targeted during the election campaigning she told us, but she said she ensure that she remained as neutral as possible while providing support to her husband.
“To be on the safe side, we use to take photos at the side of the tv to show that I was not at the political rallies, I don’t want anybody to photoshop me into the rallies, because as I said, being a regional public servant I had to to be careful,”
The family assisted the Prime Minister in putting together his speaking points for his maiden political rally held in Kitty, Mrs Phillips who kept a scrap book with publications on his public appearances recalled relying on it for that prep.
It was a statement documented in that book that would lead to the then PM designate to remind the crowd that he once said he would have been moving into civilian life but that he had found the right clothing, his red shirt, signalling that he was ready for his new role.
Now almost a year after the March general and regional elections and months after the Prime Minister took his oath, Mrs Phillips sees her role as being a major part of the Prime Minister’s support system.
“He is new into politics, he has gotten quiet a lot on his plate in terms of the port folio and so although he leaves home every day very happy to serve the people of Guyana, I still would like to make sure he has the support he needs when he comes home, because things can be very stressful and I am his first line of defence to support him and help him destress,” Mrs Phillips said.
You can watch the entire interview with Mrs Phillips on our Big Smith News Watch Facebook Page.