What an incredible year this has been!
When I took over in May last year, I was anticipating a couple of weeks of lockdown then back to ‘business as usual’.
In the event, my year as Mayor has been spent mainly on Zoom meetings and finding a way to make myself visible in order to support the town. With businesses forced to close and even essential shopping made difficult, it was pretty clear that for the town to survive we had to pull together as a community, support our shops and venues and of course ourselves.
My weekly walkabout enabled me to meet most of the traders in Frome, to let them know we were keen to support them and offer any help we could. As for residents, our campaign to ‘look out for your five nearest neighbours’ encouraged the most extraordinary network of neighbourhood communities to help each other with shopping, hospital visits, and moral support.
Most if you will know how passionate I am about Frome, and I’d like to say a massive thank you to so many of you who have risen to the challenge by shopping locally, offering to help your neighbours, finding ways to support those in greatest need, and generally being creative in keeping our spirits high. The generosity in Frome is well known but I’ve been bowled over by the stories of those who have worked tirelessly to keep the town ticking over, including all those amazing volunteers who just came out of the woodwork to help. It’s no wonder we have a reputation of being a great place to live! Thank you to all those wonderful people and thank you Frome for responding so well to all the government guidelines this year, helping to keep us all safe.
My thanks also go to The Somerset Standard, the Frome Times and Frome FM for their prolific coverage of Council activity, and their unfaltering support.
It may have been a year of the unexpected, and in my case, it proved to be a double whammy, as I was diagnosed with anal cancer, requiring chemo and radiotherapy. It was doubly difficult knowing that daily hospital visits to Bristol would have to be undertaken while Covid was still quite rampant!
So, I was faced with a multitude of questions: Could I beat it? How could I stay safe? How would I be able to manage my Mayoral duties? Would I be letting down my colleagues?
As it happens, I’ve always believed I would come out the other side but there’s no doubt that without the love and support from my partner, it could have been a very different experience. His dedication to my recovery has been amazing and I’m eternally grateful for all his care and attention. Thanks a million, Steve, you’ve been my absolute rock!
My worries about staying safe quickly disappeared too, as I was thrust into a system that took every precaution and made me feel extremely safe and secure, and so a mammoth thank you to the RUH, the BRI and currently to Frome Medical Practice for such amazing ongoing personal care.
As for my mayoral duties, my decision to persuade Andy Wrintmore to stand as my deputy has been validated ten times over. He has been remarkable in taking on so much of my work of late, and aside from giving him good insight into the mayoral role, he has shown an extraordinary aptitude for tackling many of our most difficult issues, as evidenced by much of his writing. Thank you, Andy, for doing such a magnificent job, allowing me to rest and recuperate with an easy conscience knowing the town was in safe hands. You’re going to be a brilliant Mayor!
My colleagues at Frome Town Council have also been quite remarkable during this difficult time. The staff have continued to provide well-kept and wonderful green spaces for us to enjoy, supported businesses by offering grants, help with vocational training and encouraging everyone to shop locally, looking after our finances to make sure we can deliver on our promises, inspiring communities and neighbourhoods to come together, offering help to many charity groups who support the young, the vulnerable, the lonely and the isolated, keeping an eye on all the planning applications that come through to make sure we retain all our characteristic charm, creating some fantastic, safe events to keep our spirits high and keeping us all in the loop with updates and suggestions of where to go for help. All this and dropping everything to man the phones when it was most needed! What an incredible achievement and I’m so proud to be associated with you. Thank you all of you for rising to the challenge and being so proactive in your thinking.
My Councillor colleagues too have been working non-stop on pushing for more sustainability, better walking and cycling facilities, supporting our traders, planning improvements to the Market Place, improvements to the train station environment, encouraging developers to include more social housing, and so many other tasks that make up day-to-day council work.
For this, and for all the personal support you have offered me, both when I was creating a path for myself as Mayor, all the way through my walkabouts, and latterly through my cancer journey, my heartfelt thanks to you all.
It has been an extraordinary year for sure, and even though I wasn’t able to do so many of the things I’d originally planned for my mayoral year, actually I’ve enjoyed every minute. It’s truly been an honour and a privilege to be ‘Mayor of Frome’, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for such a wonderful opportunity.
Now, let’s look forward to a year of ‘unlocking’, and bringing Frome back to life in the best way we know how. Let’s welcome back our fabulous venues, our great pubs and restaurants, and our interesting and quirky shops. Let’s continue to grow our neighbourhood networks and let’s just rejoice in being part of everything this wonderful town of ours has to offer. Frome is undeniably ’a great place to live’, so let’s celebrate that every day! Stay safe everyone, and my best wishes to you all.