I have been pleasantly listening to the last half hour of last night’s Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Webcast. Occupying centre stage were Ann Holland and David Norman, who both have been councilors for a long time, including serving as deputy mayor and mayor of the Borough, but are now standing down. In the webcast, both Ann and David gave farewell speeches and several colleagues paid heartfelt tribute to their character and service to the town.
I know both Ann and David and have positive memories of both of them, especially in their mayoral roles. Significantly, they were around when I began my community activism at the turn of the millennium and struck me as being councillor stalwarts, doing what they did for the right reasons. They are political opposites. My take is Ann is Conservative – happy to tow the party line and David is old Labour, who I imagine in his younger days was quite a fire brand. In my several interactions with both of them the subject of politics hardly featured and their focus was on the community, which they served with distinction. Both were pleasant and kind, with a common touch, and my many interactions with them were positive.
The first time I met Ann was when she chaired Cory Environmental and gave my project (Growing Together) a decent amount of money and lots of encouragement. After that we met in a number of quite varied places: the Big Event (community-in-harmony), Southend Malayalees, a Zimbabwean event and the opening of the church that took over the building that was my former church. Each meeting I recall pleasant chats. I recall that each time she made positive contribution, making attendees feel at ease. Ann had lots of strings to her bow as well as the environment, e.g. waste and fire. I get the impression she did a lot of behind the scenes work in many areas.
I don’t recall when I first met David but do recall the warm rapport when we did meet, which I expect is an experience shared by many. I recall with gratitude when mayor he came to a book signing event of something I wrote, more out of friendship. I was grateful too when Southend Homeless Action Network held a conference, he made space in his diary to come along and contribute. When he held the housing portfolio in Council, he was approachable on the subject of homelessness. I remember him taking the funeral of a friend (David is a Methodist lay preacher). His oratory skills were renowned; he was worth listening too. I suppose his specialty was housing but as leader both officially and as one people looked up to of the Labour group he could contribute on most subjects and invariably offered wise counsel and was a voice of calm.
I am sure many could add further tributes and anecdotes to that offered by council colleagues, concerning Ann Holland and David Norman, and these will show them up in a good light. The days we live in are characterized by disillusionment with many of our politicians, who often appear out of touch with the people. But concerning Ann and David they earned the respect of many in the town and from opposite parties – seeking to serve their community, doing what they can. Both have done so over a long period and with distinction. They will leave gaps although part of their legacy is their example of service. I appreciate what they have achieved and thank them for what they have done for my town. I wish them happy retirement and hope folk will step in their hard to fill shoes.