Lib-Dem is popular choice for mayor
SURPRISE MOVE: Break with tradition over deputy in behind-the-scenes wrangle
ALL-PARTY support will see Liberal Democrat councillor Rita Hawes become only the fifth female Mayor of Ashford borough tonight (Thursday) .
But the choice of deputy mayor has taken opposition groups by surprise after a series of behind the scenes wrangles since the elections earlier this month.
In the past the mayor and deputy, who takes over as mayor the following year, have been taken in turn from all the elected groups.
Under that system it would have been Labour’s turn to put forward a nominee but with only Cllr Allen Wells, who was the last Labour mayor, and Cllr Brendan Naughton back after a break, Labour was unable to produce a candidate.
Most thought that next in line would be an Independent with Ashford Independent Cllr John Holland being touted as the likely selection.
But the ruling Conservatives scuppered those plans by announcing the deputy mayor would be their St Michaels member Cllr John Link, a former parish Mayor of Tenterden.
At the new council selection committee meeting last Thursday the Ashford Independent leader Cllr Peter Davison questioned when it would be his group’s turn again and was told it was between the three main parties, with an Independent nomination taken every so often.
Council leader Cllr Paul Clokie (Con) said: “The gap between Independent mayors Reg Harrington and Malcolm Eke was 11 years so next year we have to decide if we are going to have a Liberal Democrat deputy mayor or look elsewhere.”
Mrs Hawes’ selection is due to be confirmed at tonight’s council mayor-making meeting.
Coming to the area in 1957, she worked as a teacher at Ashford Grammar School for Girls (now Highworth), with a break of seven years while her two children were small, until 1994.
She taught mainly biology but at various times was in charge of careers and work experience and was acting deputy head.
Since 1961, she has lived in Boughton Aluph with husband John who taught at Duncan Bower School (now Christ Church) for 25 years.
Mrs Hawes was a member of Boughton and Eastwell parish council for 30 years including a spell as chairman.
She was elected to the borough council in August 1994 and has chaired several key committees. Currently she chairs the Nature Conservation Forum.
Rita Hawes will be the fifth female mayor and John Link will be her deputy