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Sharon Cullingford mayor
Mayor of Gillingham Sharon Cullingford.

Gillingham is open to welcoming new development, new infrastructure and new business, Councillor Sharon Cullingford said as she was formally inducted as the town’s mayor at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Addressing fellow councillors, family and friends at the mayor-making event held at the town hall, Councillor Cullingford said: ‘It is my full intention to continue spreading the word across the county of Dorset and beyond, that Gillingham is open to welcoming new development, new infrastructure, new businesses, commercial and retail to our town with the support of the Local Chamber of Commerce.’

Sharon Cullingford mayor of Gillingham
Sharon Cullingford during the mayor-making ceremony.

The new mayor, who runs a successful flooring and interior design business with a retail outlet on the High Street with her husband Stewart, pointed to the closeness of the A303 and the railway station as key attractions for businesses. ‘I can say with complete confidence how great the town of Gillingham is as an excellent location for a business to start up or relocate to,’ she said.

Councillor Cullingford also said that she and the new deputy mayor, Councillor Barry Von Clemens, were keen to improve local transport facilities.

‘Along with deputy mayor Councillor Von Clemens my ambition this year is to focus energy on bringing a local loop bus service back to Gillingham to help our town’s residents to travel into town for provisions and appointments,’ she said.

Sharon Cullingford mayor of Gillingham Barry Von Clemens
Sharon Cullingford, mayor of Gillingham, and deputy mayor Barry Von Clemens.

‘We are keen to work with community groups in Gillingham to seek grants to hopefully bring this bus service back to the town.’

The new mayor also announced that her chosen charities for the year would be two related groups who work tirelessly to improve the town’s environment. These are GANG – the Gillingham Action For Nature Group – and Green Gang.

Earlier during the ceremony the outgoing mayor Councillor Paul Harris had pointed out that 2023 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Gillingham having its own mayor. Councillor Cullingford also noted that though two sons of former mayors had themselves gone on to hold the office, she was the first daughter of a previous mayor to do so. Her late father Robin Hussey was mayor in 1985.

The new mayor also said that it was a ‘great honour’ to become mayor during such a ‘special’ year for the country.

‘Never in a British history has a British monarch achieved a platinum jubilee and reigned as long as Queen Elizabeth II. We are all here this year to witness British history in the making,’ she said.

Councillor Cullingford, who thanked fellow councillors, the outgoing mayor Paul Harris and his wife Jean, and the council’s staff for all their support and help during her year as deputy mayor, promised to listen to the voices of residents and to do her best to resolve any issues.

‘I cannot personally solve every problem, but I can find out who to put you in touch with, who can help you,’ she said. ‘I will communicate openly honestly and effectively by connecting you with suitable resources and people. And most of all I will follow up to make sure you have received answers.’

The new mayor ended by urging residents to attend council meetings and to follow council events via its website and social media.

‘We are an approachable council, we look forward to hearing what you would like for Gillingham, we do not operate behind closed doors, we are open and transparent,’ she said.

Sharon Cullingford mayor of Gillingham Stewart, Alexandra, Barry Von Clemens
Mayor Sharon Cullingford with her husband and consort for the year Stewart, and deputy mayor Barry Von Clemens with his consort for the year, his niece Alexandra.
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