Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Councillor quits after 27 years to focus on job

A MEMBER of Sonning Common Parish Council is to stand down after 27 years.

A MEMBER of Sonning Common Parish Council is to stand down after 27 years.

Jo Hunt, 48, of Grove Road, says she wants to concentrate on her career at Boots in West Lane, Henley.

She said: “That is my focus at this point and something had to give. It was either stepping down or going on to progress from a healthcare advisor to a medicine dispenser.

“The council has been a huge part of my life and I will miss it.”

Miss Hunt grew up in the village, attending Sonning Common Primary School, Chiltern Edge School and The Henley College.

She was co–opted on to the council in 1988, when she was just 21, after running a successful campaign to stop changes to the timetable of buses between Reading and Sonning Common.

She recalled: “We were going to lose our regular service for one that came every two hours and the buses being proposed finished at 5pm, before most people had finished work so no one would have been able to get back home.

“My interest in the parish council goes back to when I was 13. I had to do a project at school on something that was happening in the village so I asked my parents what a parish council did.

“They took me along to meetings to hear about what was happening and then I would know if something interesting was going on in the village.”

Miss Hunt said that when she first joined the council some people mistook her voluntary work for vandalism.

She said: “One weekend I was cleaning the road signs with some of my fellow  councillors.

“Residents came up to me and thought I was defacing them as no one of my age would have been cleaning them. I was there up my ladder cleaning the signs!

“People jumped to conclusions but by the end I convinced some of them to help me.

“The police came up and asked me what I was doing. I think they thought I was up to something but then they realised what I was doing.”

Miss Hunt has held all the major positions on the council, including two years as chairwoman, and also served as a South Oxfordshire district councillor in the early 2000s.

She said: “It was very different to the parish council. In a sense we were responsible for representing our own area but you also have to know about all the other parishes and their issues.

“When items were coming up at a meeting you would need to know what they were talking about in the area and the context.

“It was a good experience and helped me better understand governance at a wider level but I feel I was more useful at a local level.”

Miss Hunt stood down from the district council after one term.

She said that she probably survived on the parish council for so long because she worked the same way with all councillors, no matter their allegiance or political views.

She said: “I did not care about party politics or any party, I just wanted to help local people. At a parish level, councillors should stand for the residents.”

Douglas Kedge, the current chairman of the council, said: “For Jo to serve the council for 27 years is remarkable. She has held every major role and made a huge contribution to the village.”

Miss Hunt is not the only councillor standing down.

Gail Noble, who was elected in 2011, is also leaving to concentrate on her garden design business.

She said: “I have enjoyed my four years but I have to give my commitment to my business. I will miss it but you can’t have everything in life.”

Stanley Rust, of Kennylands Road, and David Richens, of Woodlands Road, will fill the two vacancies.

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