A year as mayor
For nine months I was the Mayor of North Down during 2014-15 and as I took office I made a number of promises to the people of this Borough. During that year I hope I delivered on those promises. We had a marvellous Armed Forces Concert in October to both celebrate our British Forces contribution and also to remember the great sacrifices many have made for us all. I was very touched by the very kind letters I received after this event to thank me for organising it. I then launched my 'CS Lewis Challenge' in line with my overall theme of tackling educational underachievement. This engaged over 600 Primary 5 children and their parents in a challenge to read 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe' with the aim of connecting reading with fun.
Next was the launch of my British & Polish World War 2 Exhibition in our museum, the first ever held in Northern Ireland. This also examined the very important part played by our soldiers from Northern Ireland in actions during this time. Over 3,000 visitors came to see this exhibition in the two weeks it was open. Then in December along with Age North Down we staged the 'Christmas Tea Dance' for the 'Over 55s' where I was literally swept off my feet by a few lively and spritely ladies!
In January North Down played our part in remembering the Holocaust and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the first death camps in Poland with a very significant event in the Town Hall which included Inge Radford some of whose family was murdered in that genocide. We lit seven candles that night – each represented one million Jews murdered by the Nazis The clear lesson – we will never forget.
One of my proudest achievements was the establishment of our Educational Underachievement Forum. This inter-agency group will continue on after my term is over and, with others, we will continue to work on this issue. Finally I organised a 'Sacred Harp' event in the Council Chamber where we celebrated Bangor's deep Christian heritage through some of the most enthusiastic singing probably ever heard in the town hall!
In reflection the saddest part of my term was when my dear friend Rev Chris Bower died in October of last year. Chris was a great friend for many years and a very wise and invaluable guide to me over my term both as a friend and as sound counsel.
I'm very proud that I attended every single event I could during a very busy nine months and during this time raised more for charity in 9 months than most Mayors do in a full term. . Being a Mayor (or for that matter being in politics) is tough with a young family and one of the most difficult questions I was asked during my year was from my 3 year old daughter 'Daddy are you going out again?' I feel that my family lost me to a certain extent for these 9 months (my wife most of all) but she was willing to sacrifice this time because she saw the good I was doing. It was a great privilege for me to be selected by my Party and fellow Councillors to be Mayor but the greatest honour for me was to serve the people of North Down because for me that's what politics should be about – service.
I believe that politics should concentrate on delivery and making things better for the people you have been elected to represent. I've done my best to do that and now I look forward to refocusing on constituency work, wiping out the diary (currently on my whiteboard) and replacing it with the day to day issues that people bring to me.