Meet the city’s

A NEW mayor has taken over the chains of of­fice and set up res­i­dency in the wood-pan­elled grandeur of the par­lour at the town hall. Deputy fea­tures edi­tor HAN­NAH GRAY went along to meet Keith Sharp, and find out what makes him tick.

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Uk&world Update -

IN May, pol­i­tics in Bri­tain took a dra­matic turn when the Coali­tion Govern­ment came to power.

Here in Peter­bor­ough, the changes to the city coun­cil were far less dra­matic, but there was one sig­nif­i­cant al­ter­ation – the first non-Con­ser­va­tive mayor in eight years.

The man in ques­tion is In­de­pen­dent councillor Keith Sharp (55).

Keith is Peter­bor­ough born and bred. He grew up in Par­lia­ment Street and at­tended St Marks in­fant and ju­nior schools and then Lin­coln Road Sec­ondary Mod­ern. He has lived in New Eng­land since the age of 26.

And as much as Peter­bor­ough is in his blood, so is pol­i­tics.

“My fam­ily had been in pol­i­tics and been in­volved in pol­i­tics for many years,” he said. “My fa­ther was very keen on go­ing out and bang­ing on doors and shout­ing through loud speak­ers.”

Keith was first elected to Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil in 1978, aged 23, and at the time was one of the youngest mem­bers of the coun­cil. Af­ter his elec­tion, his fa­ther Bill, a keen Labour sup­porter, fol­lowed him on to the coun­cil.

Keith served as a councillor un­til 1982, when he left to spend time work­ing with res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tions.

He also rep­re­sented Peter­bor­ough on the Ten­ants and Res­i­dents of Eng­land com­mit­tee, and helped to form West Ful­bridge Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which is now known as Ful­bridge Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

It was per­haps al­ways in­evitable, how­ever, that he would re­turn to pol­i­tics, and in 2000, he was again elected to the coun­cil, this time as an In­de­pen­dent.

“I was dis­il­lu­sioned with party pol­i­tics and felt that al­though I wanted to serve the peo­ple, party pol­i­tics was not, in my opin­ion, the best way for­ward,” he said.

“I felt that be­ing an In­de­pen­dent gave me the free­dom to do more, say what I wished and rep­re­sent the vot­ers.”

Af­ter 10 years’ loyal ser­vice on the coun­cil, elec­tion to the of­fice of mayor was not some­thing Keith had been work­ing to­wards.

“I’ve never ever aimed for it,” he said. “But I’m pleased and very happy to do the role be­cause it gives me the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent the city.”

Away from pol­i­tics, Keith is tak­ing a year off from his role as health and safety ad­vi­sor/dis­tri­bu­tion su­per­vi­sor for East Mid­lands News­pa­pers.

He is sin­gle, and in his spare time is a huge sports fan.

As a younger man, he played foot­ball, and he has also been a ref­eree. He is a life mem­ber of the Peter­bor­ough and District Foot­ball League com­mit­tee.

Keith is to be as­sisted in his may­oral du­ties by a long-stand­ing friend, Doris Marchant, who will be his may­oress. She has lived in Peter­bor­ough for 58 years, and the pair know each other through var­i­ous com­mu­nity groups.

Doris is very ac­tive in the lo­cal com­mu­nity al­ready. She is the chair­man of the Mill­field Com­mu­nity Cen­tre As­so­ci­a­tion, is a mem­ber of the Ful­bridge Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion and in­volved with the Sal­va­tion Army Good Neigh­bours scheme and the Park­way Club.

She is con­fi­dent Keith is go­ing to be a good mayor.

“He is good at what he does with his coun­cil work,” she said.

Doris re­vealed Keith is also very pop­u­lar with the groups he works with.

“I defy any­body to go up to Blube­bell Over 60s Cen­tre or Beck­etts Close and say any­thing bad about Keith. Those ladies would set on that per­son!” she said. “They think he’s the best thing since sliced bread.”

In­deed, the older Peter­bor­ough res­i­dents are one of Keith’s key con­cerns.

In the speech he made on the day he be­came mayor, he said: “I rep­re­sent a ward which has 33 per cent el­derly res­i­dents, so I will be very keen to work closely with not only the el­derly res­i­dents of the city, but the sup­port groups on which many of them rely.

“My deputy and I also wish to do some in­ter-gen­er­a­tional work to bring young and el­derly res­i­dents to­gether so that they can un­der­stand each other’s needs.”

As is tra­di­tional, Keith has cho­sen char­i­ties for which he will fund raise dur­ing his time in of­fice.

These are char­i­ties which have per­sonal links, or are is­sues he feels strongly about. The first of these is Di­a­betes UK. “Di­a­betes in this coun­try is on the in­crease. Peter­bor­ough is above av­er­age. What­ever we can do to sup­port and find ways of con­trol­ling or elim­i­nat­ing di­a­betes, I’m very keen to sup­port,” he said.

Keith’s sec­ond char­ity is Macmil­lian Can­cer Sup­port, which he is cham­pi­oning for more per­sonal rea­sons, as his brother Phillip re­ceived a lot of help from the char­ity when he was ill with liver can­cer.

“The sup­port he got from Macmil­lan was bril­liant,” Keith said. “They don’t only sup­port the pa­tient, but they also sup­port the fam­ily as well.”

Fi­nally, his last char­ity is Peter­bor­ough War Me­mo­rial Fund, which is rais­ing money for a new war me­mo­rial for the city.

Keith said: “Peter­bor­ough War Me­mo­rial is some­thing that over the past 18 months pre­vi­ous may­ors have been deal­ing with.

ON THE BALL: New mayor Keith at one of his first of­fi­cial func­tions, vis­it­ing Unity FC at the Em­bank­ment pitches.

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