THE first question most people ask me when I tell them what I do for a living is: “Are you mad?”

Apparently sitting in council chambers and reporting about the inner workings of local authorities isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

However, the prospect of becoming the local democracy reporter for Wrexham and Flintshire piqued my interest the second I saw the job advert.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service was set up to shine a light on the work of local councils and other public bodies, and to ensure the decisions they make on behalf of our communities are scrutinised.

The first reporter who became part of the scheme started work this time last year, but my own journey started in May.

My route into the role wasn’t the most conventional having left journalism to become a communications officer in the public sector two years earlier.

When most people make the transformation from poacher to gamekeeper they tend to make the move permanent because, let’s face it, being a reporter isn’t always the best paid job.

But personally I missed the thrill of chasing down a story and breaking it to the world (or part of North Wales at least).

Despite the pre-conception of local politics as a dry affair, the months have flown by since I picked up my pen and paper again and my story count is now approaching 600.

From pothole-fixing drones to battles over plans for large scale housing developments, the topics I encounter vary greatly from day to day.

My work can be accessed by a large number of organisations through a central system. They include my employers at The Leader, the BBC who fund the scheme, along with hyperlocal websites and other regional newspaper titles.

One of the undoubted high points came in August when an article I wrote about someone taking their big red pen to a parking sign in Wrexham to highlight Welsh language errors became the most read on the BBC website.

The lows come if there’s a particularly barren period with no meetings, which is when you really have to get your creative juices flowing.

Perhaps more than ever there are also a lot of occasions when you attract negative attention on social media, and even if you have the skin of a rhino that can be hard.

Overall though it is undoubtedly the most rewarding stage of my career to date and both councils I cover have mostly been welcoming of the extra coverage.

That’s not to say relations are always rosy, but I have yet to encounter the problems experienced by some of my fellow local democracy reporters where their presence at meetings is greeted with shock or even hostility.

One of my most enjoyable assignments came when I was invited into Wrexham Council’s CCTV control room in July.

Meanwhile, in November I was asked to cover a social media campaign launched by Flintshire Council to appeal for better funding from the Welsh Government.

At the time, the authority was facing a financial blackhole of more than £15m and the lack of money available to councils is another important issue which continues to raise its head.

The difficult financial climate does not mean that scrutiny of decisions should come to a grinding halt.

However, it should be highlighted when setting the context behind the millions of pounds worth of cuts which are made each year.

Trying to translate this and other complex issues into plain English is not always easy, yet it is something that everyone who is part of the scheme strives to do.

Since it was launched last January, reporters have filed nearly 50,000 stories on important local issues in England, Wales and Scotland. The initiative is also due to be rolled out to Northern Ireland this year.

I was reminded of my own reasons for joining only a few months ago when writing a story about a community swimming pool in Wrexham which was saved from closure.

A woman who uses the pool to teach youngsters to swim said she believed my original article about it being under threat was the catalyst for school officials deciding to keep it open.

The Watergate scandal it was not, but that feeling of making a difference is what spurs us all on.