New mayor has a fine welcome
CENTRE STAGE: Pledge to bring jobs and help young people
Ashford’s annual council meeting is traditionally a nonpolitical gathering of pomp and ceremony with much back-slapping and praise for serving members.
was in the civic centre chamber to witness this year’s mayor-making, which included a shock and an unexpected attack on one group leader.
NEW Mayor Rita Hawes looked perfect to play the part of first citizen of the borough as she sat fully robed conducting her first official meeting, with the universal approval of her colleagues.
Taking centre stage as only the fifth female to hold the office in the town, she said it was an unexpected privilege to be elevated to first citizen half a century ago this month since she came to Ashford for a teaching-post interview.
Accepting office she pledged to welcome new business to the area to provide vital jobs, encourage young people to get involved in community life, and help expand the network of volunteers that clean-up neighbourhoods.
She said: “Ashford is a diverse place. Some parts are in a great state of change and others in our beautiful countryside have not changed at all.
“I like the town and its people and love the surrounding rural areas. It is hard at present for town centre shopkeepers but we are looking forward to the coming of the County Square extension and new Stour Centre and the traffic cones will go away.”
She announced that her charity for the year would be Ashford Pilgrims hospice as she was proud of the care they provide for local people with terminal illness and their relatives.
Proposing her election veteran Cllr John Kemp said the Barnetborn girl had become head girl at her local grammar school before training as a teacher and had completed a distinguished career at Highworth School.
He said: “As a councillor she works hard within her ward and has a wide and varied experience and knowledge of the way the council operates.
“She has chaired many committees, has led her group and has always acted in a professional manner no matter what the circumstances. Above all she has the respect of her fellow councillors and officials of the council.”
Cllr Bob Davidson, who has taken her place as Lib Dem group leader, seconded her nomination.
He said: “For many years she has led us well and was never flustered and always found answers to problems.”
Cllr John Link, who served for four years as Tenterden Mayor from 1991 before being elected on to the borough council, will serve as deputy Mayor.
Ashford’s new mayor Cllr Rita Hawes