The local elections in May 2019 were tumultuous, conducted in a febrile environment of Brexit anger with a national sense of frustration at Westminster’s failure to deliver any form of exit from the European Union – as had been promised in 2016.
As Alain Juppe famously said “the people have spoken”, although fewer spoke than in recent elections with fewer than 24% of the electorate voting locally.
The election result prompted a number of, perhaps, unexpected events.
Chelmsford Conservatives lost control of Chelmsford City Council, losing a number of hard working Councillors and Cabinet Members, including Cabinet Members responsible for Leisure, Social Housing and Technology.
I enjoyed working with them all, I believe we achieved a lot for the community, leaving Chelmsford better than when we started, and I consider them all friends.
One of those who was not returned to the City Council was Cllr. Julia Jeapes, who had been Cabinet Member for Leisure and had worked tirelessly to oversee the completion of Chelmsford’s “Riverside” leisure centre’s £30+m refurbishment.
Julia’s failure to be re-elected was a surprise and a disappointment, and it prompted one of those ‘unexpected events’, as it had been proposed that she would serve as Mayor of Chelmsford for the year 2019-20.
I had previously agreed that I would support Julia as Deputy Mayor, but suddenly and unexpectedly I found myself to be the person nominated to be Mayor of Chelmsford – an ‘accidental Mayor’.
To be Mayor and First Citizen of Chelmsford is, of course, a tremendous privilege, and a duty to be taken seriously; my diary rapidly filled with invitations, I attended two official functions the day after I’d been made mayor – bumping into the Mayor of Colchester on both occasions.
He too was on his first day!
The theme of my Mayoral year will be ‘overcoming adversity’ and my chosen charity will be Parkinson’s UK. I lost Val to an aggressive form of cancer a few years ago, but she had been in the foothills of that pernicious disease for some years.
That Val won’t be with me to share my Mayoralty is, of course, a source of immense sadness for me.
My Mayoress for the year will be Jan Cheese, the widow of my very good friend and fellow Town Councillor, Jon Cheese, whom we lost nearly twelve years ago.
My Deputy Mayor is Janette Potter and her escort is former City Councillor Gillian Smith.