The new mayor of Gillingham, Councillor Barry Von Clemens, set out his priorities for the coming year during the formal mayor-making ceremony at the town hall on Wednesday evening.
In a speech Councillor Von Clemens, who was elected for the fourth time as mayor on Monday, said he had a list of ten issues and themes that he wanted to focus on for his 12-month term of office.
‘Our strength is working with our community, something that this council has a proud history of, and something that I will do my best to ensure continues and grows even stronger,’ he told guests at the ceremony.
The list included:
- Community engagement – including inviting local groups to attend networking events during the year.
- Working with young people
- Supporting the local economy
- Consultation – for example over plans to improve leisure opportunities at Hardings Park.
- the town’s Neighbourhood Plan – which needs reviewing and updating
- Improving the town’s carbon footprint – including Green Week in June
- Improving and enhancing the town’s biodiversity – working with the Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Gillingham Action for Nature Group (GANG) to protect, conserve and enhance the town’s natural environment and its biodiversity
- Delivering award-winning public open spaces
- Promoting health and well-being
Councillor Von Clemens said that he would be working towards the next town council elections in May 2024 in a bid to encourage more people to come forward and stand as councillors. ‘Over the coming year, through roadshows, we aim to go out and try to find them. And to show them what the role of councillor is, how rewarding it can be and how to stand for election,’ he said.
This year will also see events to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of Gillingham Town Council.
The new mayor, who has been deputy mayor for the past year, paid tribute to his predecessor Councillor Sharon Cullingford. ‘She has done a fabulous job and it has been a pleasure to have been able to help and serve as her deputy,’ he told guests at the town hall.
Councillor Von Clemens has chosen his niece Alexandra Von Clemens to be his consort for the year. The new deputy mayor Councillor Roger Weeks, who was also sworn in at Wednesday evening’s ceremony, chose his mother Yvonne Weeks to be his consort.
In her final speech as mayor Councillor Sharon Cullingford told the gathering that it had been an ‘honour’ to be mayor during what she described as an ’emotional year’. The town had celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, then mourned her passing in September and was then involved in the reading of the Proclamation of King Charles III. More recently it had celebrated the Coronation.
‘No matter whether it is a worldwide crisis like Covid, a national celebration like the Coronation of King Charles III or a local event, we, as a town, always come together, work together to help each other and do whatever we can. It is this amazing spirit that makes Gillingham such a fabulous town, and I am very proud of that,’ she said.
Councillor Cullingford also paid tribute to the staff and councillors, saying Gillingham had one of the best councils in the county. ‘We are all very respectful of each other and care about the residents of our town and most importantly we work well together as team, helping each other out to complete tasks,’ she said.
The former mayor said that at a recent event she was asked what her message to the people of Gillingham would be. ‘It struck me that my message would be to “get involved”. Help make the difference you are seeking! There is something for everyone in this town, so get out there, get involved – and let the council know if we can help.’