Monday, May 29, 2023

Thurrock’s youngest and first gay mayor takes office

THURROCK’S youngest and first gay mayor was appointed at a civic ceremony in the borough’s newly built £9.8million council offices.

James Halden, 31, received the mayoral chain of office from outgoing mayor, Sue Shinnick on Wednesday.

Mr Halden, former cabinet member for education and health, revealed a long held ambition to become mayor.

He said: “When I decided to leave cabinet a year ago because I wanted my shot at this job. I did so because I have a profound belief in the openness of democracy in Thurrock.

“It’s that openness that allows me to stand here as the youngest person to become our first citizen, even though I don’t look like it and to become our first gay first citizen.”

Speaking of Thurrock’s bright future, he said: “What our borough has meant to the world of commerce to the country and the wider world throughout the century, that will be the theme of my mayoralty. A borough that’s open for business for the centuries and for centuries more.

“With Thurrock’s economic potential today, if we are ambitious enough, I truly believe this borough will rival London’s square mile very, very shortly.”

Mr Halden announced a mayoral roll of honour for “communities, charities, industry, businesses, individuals and partners that are doing remarkable things every single day”.

The new mayor also announced his charities as the intensive care unit for babies at Thurrock and Basildon Hospital, which he said had cared for his young nephews. He will also support charities working with refugees.

Pledging to work hard for the Thurrock community, he added: “I can only promise to use every hour that God gives me and every ounce of energy that I’ve got.”

Recalling her year in office Ms Shinnick, who only got to chair one council meeting in the council chamber due to Covid and flood damage in the former council building, said: “It has been an absolute honour to have represented the borough as mayor of Thurrock. It has not always been an easy ride but the positives have certainly outweighed the negatives.

“I will take away some lovely memories and treasure each and every one of them. We have much to be proud of here in Thurrock. I have been able to meet some inspiring residents and attend some amazing events held in our local communities.”

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