GE SPECIAL: LIFE AFTER POLITICS

Teo Ser Luck's proudest moments: Residents benefiting from his programmes

Mr Teo Ser Luck says the jobs he has helped residents find and the spaces he has transformed in his ward of Sengkang Central were among the most fulfilling parts of his political career.
Mr Teo Ser Luck says the jobs he has helped residents find and the spaces he has transformed in his ward of Sengkang Central were among the most fulfilling parts of his political career. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Since stepping down from public office in 2017, Mr Teo Ser Luck, 52, has been living his childhood dream of building his own businesses, with a string of ventures in sectors as varied as education and fintech.

The former Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP, who retired from politics at the general election, said 14 years of public service have infused his entrepreneurial streak with the conviction that for-profit companies must also do social good.

Grassroots work and his time at agencies such as the Ministry of Manpower showed him that even in developed Singapore, there were many who could use a leg-up.

"The good thing I take out of it (politics) is that you have more information and you understand more deeply that there is a lot more help that is needed," he said, referring to the deliberations and perspectives he had access to as a political office-holder.

Mr Teo spent about 11 years as a political office-holder - "all high times, no low ones", he said. The three-term MP added that his proudest moments in that period were when residents benefited from local programmes he put in place.

Mr Teo first stood for election in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC in 2006. That same year, he was named parliamentary secretary in the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and became the youngest office-bearer in government.

The avid sportsman was a key player in Singapore's successful bid to host the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010, and also initiated the nation's cycling plan.

Yet, Mr Teo said the jobs he has helped residents find and the spaces he has transformed in his ward of Sengkang Central were among the most fulfilling parts of his time as an MP, and as mayor of North East District.

He recalled that he became mayor in 2009, amid a recession, and worked on creating a network of job placement centres across the district.

He said temporary positions were created within the community for job seekers to maintain an income while looking for more permanent jobs - a system that is still relevant in today's tough economic times caused by Covid-19.

Before joining politics, Mr Teo was in the private sector - he had spent a decade in logistics and was general manager at DHL Express.

In politics, he said, he found joy in "innovating through programmes, creating them and then implementing them to solve problems" raised by residents.

That was how he came to create dedicated study and working spaces in Sengkang Community Club for residents to use, complete with facilities such as photocopiers and free snacks.

Last month, Mr Teo found that Sengkang Community Club had become a popular rest point for food delivery riders, given the uptick in orders and its proximity to Compass One and Kopitiam Square.

He thus requested that People's Association staff draw additional motorbike parking spaces and install benches for riders to use.

These facilities have proven popular. When Mr Teo made a Facebook post calling on residents to support the PAP's Sengkang GRC team on the final day of the GE2020 campaign, a number of residents thanked him for providing conducive spaces for students to study.

The new Sengkang GRC - which the Workers' Party won in the election - absorbed his Sengkang Central ward, as well as parts of Sengkang West and Punggol East.

While Mr Teo declined to talk about his successors, he said his central rule as an MP was to always be accessible to his residents.

He said: "You must make sure you have a system for them to access you and the people working together with you, and you also need to reach out to them too - it goes both ways.

"At any point in time, there must be that trust and confidence that this person, he'll be there, and even if they don't see you, they feel you."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2020, with the headline Teo Ser Luck's proudest moments: Residents benefiting from his programmes. Subscribe