Thursday 26 May 2016

My speech to Mayor Making Ceremony - 10th May 2016

For somebody that comes from a humble background – I can’t express enough what an honour it is to be elected Mayor and I thank you sincerely for the opportunity.

As some will know, I began to get involved in community and Council life when aged 12 I wrote a letter to the local paper complaining about the lack of things to do in Thetford for young people. That was 1997. It was from there that I was contacted by then Manager of the old Thetford Partnership – Nigel Boldero and invited to meetings to give my opinions on things from a young person’s perspective. I didn’t really have political beliefs at that time, but what struck me early on was that the same individuals were also at the different meetings that I was going to, most notably Thelma Paines and Colin Armes as County Councillors. Over time I got to know these Councillors and it was Thelma that invited me to my first Labour Party meeting aged about 13 or 14 and the rest they say is history.

I want to thank those political people in my life who not only helped shape my beliefs but also provided me with role models demonstrating the importance of public and community service. People like Thelma and Albert, Colin and Sylvia and Gerald Bass. Also people like Pat Balaam, Ray Key and Jack Ramm, who are sadly no longer with us, but I’m really pleased that Diana and Alison have been able to attend. The examples that they set with their own lives and actions have shaped who I am today and I thank them for it.

I thank my parents for their support and the example that they have set – their strong work ethic has always been an example to me and their practical support has enabled me to undertake many of the things that I have done. Thanks also to all my family and friends for their love and support. Being involved in local Government can take up a significant part of your life and whilst it’s something that I and others have chosen to do, it’s not something that those around us have and their forbearance is I am sure appreciated by all.

Whilst we cannot be 100% certain, I’m likely to be THE youngest Mayor in Thetford’s history or if not, one of the youngest. Whilst youth can give me energy and determination it doesn’t always afford me patience and wisdom and I look to fellow Councillors past and present for that guidance in my year ahead.  I’m always prepared to listen and whilst I do have my own opinions, I welcome alternative ideas and recognise that I am not always right.

I am sure that my year as Mayor will be different to what some people are used to. It is no secret that I am someone that is much more confortable in jeans and a t-shirt rather than a shirt and tie. But I will aim to do everything that is required of me in the role, and I recognise that tradition is very important but so too is common sense – I’ll even wear a hat!

My consort for the year will be Corinne Fulford. Like many people I knew many years ago that Corinne was a ‘do-er’ – I didn’t entirely appreciate the breadth of what she did, or understand why she did it – but I knew she did things. It was only when Corinne was elected to the Town Council in 2011 that I really understood what she was all about and I fully appreciated her passion – passion not just for Thetford, but for community engagement and fairness too. Corinne I know will be the perfect advocate for our Town as we travel to events locally and further afield.

I love Thetford, whilst many friends of mine have moved away to pursue careers and to follow a different path, I have never been tempted by the bright lights of elsewhere. Thetford is a beautiful town, we have incredible environmental assets, we have amazing heritage and we have such wonderful community spirit. So often people do not recognise or appreciate what is on their own doorstep – I hope over the next 12 months to do what I can to add to the efforts of others to highlight the many good points about Thetford and work to address those things that may need a bit more effort.

My focus for the year ahead will be to inspire young people in this town to achieve what they want to achieve. As someone that was born and grew up here, I know a bit about the barriers that still exist. Not just the physical ones but the psychological ones too. I’m going to have some help in my year ahead from other people that have grown up in Thetford and have gone on to achieve in their lives. These ‘ambassadors’ will assist with visits to local schools and youth groups – talking about growing up in Thetford and what they do now.

With this in mind, thinking about the Mayor’s Charity - any funds raised over the next year will be earmarked to support projects and organisations in Thetford that work with and support young people.

I look forward to the year ahead with a degree of nervousness and excitement and l hope that I serve you well.