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New Mayor Speech 2013 – Bob Smytherman

by Press Officer on 24 May, 2013


I would like to welcome the High Sheriff, Captain Andrew Layzell from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, Honorary Aldermen, Councillors and Officers to the Borough Council.

Well what can I say! For the first time in this chamber I am lost for words!

Firstly thank you to Cllr Charles James for all you have done promoting our wonderful town in the last 12 months and the support you have shown me personally while I have been your deputy.

Well, from ‘Old Nicks’ Burger Bar to Mayor of Worthing. Who would have thought it!

Can I first of all thank Cllr Mrs Waight for your kind words and can I say there is at least one thing we agree on and that is your choice for Mayor! Having spent the last two years working closely with you on the Worthing County Local Committee and despite our Political differences I consider you to be a real friend and you will certainly be missed by the County Council! Thanks too to Cllr Carol Molineaux for seconding the proposal.

It means a huge amount personally to receive cross-party support for this APolitical role. I know there will be those of you that think it will not be possible for me to be non-political for a whole year and you may be right, but I will do my very best for the town! And that is a promise!

One thing is for sure Worthing really matters and as your 1st Citizen I will uphold those responsibilities to the very best of my ability.

Many of you may be surprised to know that I did not do very well at school and coming from the O Level and CSE generation. I did want to do Politics at school, unfortunately there was no CSE available in politics, therefore I had to persuade my teachers that I would be able to cope with an O Level, sadly I couldn’t and was dropped after the mock exams to spend extra time doing cooking!

Not to be deterred I continued to keep a keen interest in Politics and helped to secure the election of my brother-in-law Hon Alderman Nick John in 1990. A year later I was asked by our Lib Dem guru and former Tarring Councillor John Lovell to stand as a candidate in Durrington which I agreed narrowly losing to former Mayor John Cotton.

Without John Lovell’s tireless work in the background for the party there would not be Lib Dem representation on this Council and I wouldn’t be up here dressed like this today and for that I thank you John!

After a number of hard election campaigns, where I lost. I finally took the seat of Tarring in 2002 at the same time as the Lib Dems re-taking control of the Council. During my first year on the Council serving with so many senior Lib Dems many of whom are here today including all the way from France Hon Alderman Geraldine Lissenburg who was very supportive during my final year as opposition leader. Thanks Geraldine.

During my second year on the Council there became a vacancy on the Executive after Senior Lib Dem Cllr Chris Sargeant stood down from the Council. I through my hat in the ring and got the role only to realise what a poison chalice it really was. The Planning and Economic Development portfolio included development briefs for Sea Place / Eirene Road (opposed by the opposition at the time) but now looking a first class seafront development and of course the Grafton Site and West Durrington.

Following the 2004 all out local elections where we lost not only control of the Council but a number of our senior Councillors who stood down or lost their seat. I became Lib Dem opposition leader which was a very challenging role after such a bad election result for the party. After 4 years opposing the ‘merger’ with Adur I decided to stand down from the leadership role handing over to Hon Alderman James Doyle and later Cllr Alan Rice who continues to be a strong voice for the party in this chamber and outside today.

I would also like to thank Cllr Norah Fisher for agreeing to be my Mayoress for the year! Just for the record, Norah and I are very good friends and I look forward to sharing this very special year with you, but please don’t let Herbie get all the attention! Thank You Norah!

Turning now to my family I am delighted my Mum can be with us today despite suffering from poor health of late. No one could have been more supportive of my varied career including endless homemade cooking when I had my coffee shop. Thanks Mum I hope you are as proud of me as I am of you!

I am also delighted that 2 of my sisters children can be here today Michael and wife Lily with baby Oliver who are waiting for us outside and Rebecca sadly Peter and Christopher are both working today. Your Mum would be so proud of you all and I just wish Nancy could be here to share this moment with us!

Sadly my other sister Barbara and husband Mark who have also experienced many challenges of their own in recent years are unable to join us today. The other person who can’t be with us today is my hero and friend my Dad. But I know as a good Catholic that he will be looking down saying what have you lot done making him the Mayor! He will be truly proud as I am. Also Dad’s Brother Uncle Ken Smytherman who passed away a year ago although he did say to my Auntie Pat when he found out I was to be Deputy Mayor shortly before he died that Bob will either make an excellent Mayor or make a complete hash of it. Thanks Uncle Ken!

Also here today is my friend Janet who I first met at ‘Old Nicks’ who soon became not only my assistant manager but also my best friend. When I decided to set up my own café in Courts in Shoreham in 2000, despite being offered my job in the burger bar Janet decided to come and work for me as my assistant and book-keeper, she knew how bad my maths really was. Thanks Janet!

Turning now to my spiritual support for the year thank you to my Parish Priest Fr Chris Benyon from St Mary’s of the Angels for agreeing to be my chaplain for the year and can I take this opportunity to invite you all to my Civic Service on Sunday at St Mary’s in Crescent Road which will be a service for Pentecost organised by the local Deanery schools who I have had a long standing association first as a pupil of St Mary’s Primary school and later as a Governor of both Chatsmore and English Martyrs for many years.

The service will also will also be available live on the web from 10.30.

You will be pleased to know I have nearly finished but before doing so I must mention my Charities for the year all of whom are linked to a theme around mental health. Firstly there will be Guild Care well known to many, and celebrating 80 years this year providing essential services to the town’s residents represented here to today by Erin from the fundraising team, next is the Worthing Alzheimer’s Society represented today by Colin Carpenter this is a condition none of us want to talk about but again provide vital support to sufferers and their families next week I be supporting them during Dementia Awareness Week 2013 which is from from 19-25 May and finally a charity very close to my heart as I have been a trustee with them for a few years now and that is Worthing and Arun MIND soon to become Coastal West Sussex MIND following a merger with Chichester Mind later this year represented here today by Dave Martin and Chairman Brian Hughes. My charity committee are raring to go having been planning for some months under the excellent chairmanship of Percy Nowell who many of you will know from his role supporting past Mayor’s and I would also like to thank Percy, Rachel and Anna from Guild Care who have kindly facilitated our charity meetings.

I would also like to say a special thanks to one of my Twitter friends for finding the time to be here during Mental Health awareness week. Lisa Rodriguez Chief Executive from the Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust has been hugely supportive since I announced my mayoral theme would mental health awareness and also thanks to Carol Barber and the Offington Park Methodist Church for agreeing to host a week of events to coincide with Worthing Mental Health Day in October.

Finally I mentioned Twitter and unsurprisingly my ambition is to be known as the multi-media Mayor and therefore I want as many of the towns residents as possible to follow me on Twitter with the hashtag #coolmayor to find out what I am up to and involve as many of the towns folk as possible during the year. We also have a web-site launched today where you will be able to see more about the charities and even make a donation. Thanks to Allie from the charity team for putting this together.

This year I want to be known as the peoples Mayor and with all of your help I can do just that and remember while it is nice to be important it is much more important to be nice!

Thank You.



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