Tuesday, 01 December 2020

True blue councillor becomes ’lady in red’

THE new Conservative Mayor of Henley says she is honoured to be the “lady in red”.

THE new Conservative Mayor of Henley says she is honoured to be the ?lady in red?.

Lorraine Hillier, a Yorkshirewoman who has been a member of the town council for 16 years, was formally voted into office at the Mayor-making ceremony at the town hall on Monday.

More than 200 people, including her mother Shirley and sister Susan George, staff from her Hot Gossip coffee house and fellow councillors and former mayors watched as she was presented with the mayoral chain by outgoing mayor Martin Akehurst.

Cllr Hillier, 59, of River Terrace, Henley, said: ?I?m delighted to see so many people here today and overwhelmed by the kindness shown to me. I?ve been stopped in the street by well-wishers and been sent flowers and cards.

?When I arrived in Henley 25 years ago I didn?t know one person here and now it?s my true home.

?I?d like to thank all the people who voted for me. It made my mum very proud and I know my dad would have been too.?

The Mayor grew up in Sheffield and moved to Henley in 1990 while working as a graphic designer.

She was elected to the town council in 1999 and served as Deputy Mayor in 2003 but has never been made mayor until now despite four nominations.

She also represented Henley on South Oxfordshire District Council from 2007 to 2011.

She won her seat back at the elections earlier this month, when the Conservatives increased their majority and won an elected majority on the town council for the first time since 2003.

Cllr Hillier opened Hot Gossipin Friday Street in 2007 and last year opened the Upstairs and Downstairs tearoom in Duke Street.

Hot Gossip was closed from 11am to 1.15pm on Monday so staff could attend the ceremony.

The Mayor said: ?After a two-day course in how to run a coffee shop, I started my business. It has put me at the heart of our community and I?ve met some wonderful people.

?I?d like to thank my long-suffering staff, who are my extended family. I will now be taking a ?gap year? from the café to make sure I?m the best ambassador I can be for our town.?

Cllr Hillier was nominated by her fellow Conservative councillor Will Hamilton and seconded by new Tory councillor Helen Chandler-Wilde, 20, who used to work at Hot Gossip.

Cllr Hamilton said: ?Lorraine is the longest-serving councillor never to have been mayor. She works tirelessly for Henley and adores this town .She got the most votes in the district council elections and also for the North ward of Henley in the town council elections.

?Lorraine?s not a pushover. She may be only 5ft tall but underneath she?s made of Sheffield steel.?

Cllr Chandler-Wilde added: ?If I had to compare her to a historical figure I would be torn between the late, great Baroness Thatcher and Elizabeth I.

?She understands that anything can be achieved if you work hard enough. She manages all of this while being extremely kind and fair. I and all the other Hot Gossip girls refer to her as our second mother.?

Cllr Hillier was led into the chamber by town sergeant Cliff Austin, who carried the ceremonial mace.

After prayers, led by Rev Canon Martyn Griffiths, rector of St Mary?s Church, she was voted unanimously into office by her fellow councillors.

Cllr Hillier broke into a smile after the announcement and received a kiss on the cheek from Councillor David Nimmo Smith, chairman of Henley Conservatives.

During her year in office, the Mayor?s escort will be her sister, Susan George.

In her first address as Mayor, Cllr Hillier said: ?Susan and I are very close and will be quite the double act.

?I?ve already had lots of invitations to dinners. Thankfully, we don?t have a Mayor-weighing ceremony, where the Mayor was weighed at the start and the end of the year to make sure they hadn?t put on weight at the taxpayers? expense!

?I?ve always been a true blue but this year I?m honoured to be your lady in red.?

After the ceremony, Cllr Hillier met pupils from Badgemore and Sacred Heart primary schools and held a reception for guests with drinks and snacks.

Cllr Hillier?s charities for her year in office will be Oxfordshire Mind, the Teenage Wilderness Trust and Thames Valley Animal Welfare.

She said she chose Oxfordshire Mind in memory of her former Hot Gossip employee Daniel Leer, who was found dead at his YMCA home in Lawson Road in 2013.

She said: ?Mind is special to me because of Dan, who used to work for me. His mum is still doing a lot of fund-raising for them. The reason I chose the Teenage Wilderness Trust is because my brother-in-law Kim works for Path Hill Outdoors in Goring and they do courses for children who have been excluded from education. He introduced me to Matt Bailey, who runs the trust.

?For the final charity I wanted an animal charity because there?s not been a mayor who has had one before. I wanted one particular to Henley so I spoke to the Henley Veterinary Centre and they suggested Thames Valley Animal Welfare.

?I used to have cats and people know me for letting dogs into the café so I?m a bit of an animal person.?

Mrs George, 62, lives in Northfield End, Henley, with her husband Kim. She followed her sister to the area 11 years ago after working as a teacher in Sheffield for 29 years.

She worked part-time at Ewelme Primary School before taking up a teaching post at Rupert House School in Bell Street, Henley, in 2006 and the couple moved to the town.

Mrs George is now semi-retired, working three days a week at the school as well as giving private tuition.

She said: ?I thought it was an absolutely brilliant ceremony and it goes without saying how proud we are of Lorraine.

?It?s all her hard work and I?m very privileged that she?s asked me to be her escort. She will be a great ambassador and I?m very proud that I?ll be going along to all these functions with her.?

The new Deputy Mayor is Julian Brookes, 66, of Parkside, Henley, an electrical engineer who works with technology companies in north-east Asia. He was voted on to the town council for the first time at the May 7 elections.

Councillor Brookes, a Conservative, has lived in Henley with his wife Gabriele since returning to Britain from Hong Kong 14 years ago.

He was an engineering officer in the Royal Navy before moving into international sales and marketing.

Cllr Brookes has attended town, district and county council meetings as a member of the public to learn how the system works. He is also a committee member of the Henley Branch User Group.

Cllr Brookes was nominated for his role by Cllr Nimmo Smith and seconded by Councillor Sam Evans. Cllr Evans said that when she was thinking of what to say about Cllr Brookes, the word that came to mind was ?Henley? with an H for honesty, E for energy, N for knowledge, L for likeability and another E for entrepreneurial ability.

She said she couldn?t think of a word for Y but recalled a story from the Second World War when Prime Minister Winston Churchill met American president Franklin D Roosevelt in his hotel room completely naked.

Churchill told Roosevelt: ?The Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to hide from the President of the United States.?

?This story sums up Julian?s approach,? said Cllr Evans to laughter in the hall and a bemused-looking Cllr Brookes.

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak supported Cllr Brookes? nomination on behalf of the opposition Henley Residents? Group.

Cllr Brookes said: ?Thanks to the 1,262 voters who elected me. I?m looking forward to working with all the councillors.?

Cllr Akehurst made a speech thanking all those with whom he had worked during his year in office.

He said: ?Thank you for the past year, it?s been very enjoyable. The year has had its highs and lows and there are parts that will stand out in my memory for a very long time.

?My wife has now told me that we are taking a few days off to recuperate. In true town council-style, she told me this wasn?t an item for debate but a resolved item!?

Cllr Akehurst announced that £1,014 had been raised over the year for each of his three charities, the Kingwood Trust, the Henley Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Samaritans.

He also presented a certificate to the Mayor?s cadet, Alex Hearn-Philips.

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