FLAGS have been flying at half-mast over South Shields Town Hall after the sudden death of borough councillor Bob Watters.
Coun Watters, a Labour representative for the West Park ward in South Shields since May 2010, died yesterday at the age of 70.
Shocked colleagues paid tribute to Coun Watters, a former senior social services manager in South Tyneside.
South Tyneside Council leader Coun Iain Malcolm described him as a “true gentleman”, adding: “I am deeply sorry to hear of Coun Watters’ death.
“He was a genuine, friendly colleague, who was committed to representing the West Park ward and the people of South Tyneside.
“We have lost a real gentlemen, a good friend and a valued councillor, who was well liked by all who met him and well respected by all those who served with him.
“His death will be a huge loss to his many friends and colleagues in the council and his community.
“He will be greatly missed and remembered with respect. Our hearts go out to Bob’s family and friends at this very sad time.”
Fellow West Park Labour councillor Gladys Hobson said she was “shell-shocked” at the news.
Coun Hobson said: “I only spoke to him on Wednesday morning, and he said he had the flu and was not feeling well. He was waiting for his daughter to come round.
“I’m shell-shocked at his death. He was a very capable councillor who was very experienced in council procedures after all his years working in social services. His son Matthew has learning difficulties, and he spent a great deal of time working on selecting staff at Keelman’s Way School in Hebburn.
“He was an unassuming man who worked closely with myself and Coun Joyce Welsh. We never had a cross word.”
Coun Watters, of Reynolds Avenue, Whiteleas, South Shields, cut a distinguished figure around the town hall in his trilby hat, and he was an active ward councillor.
A member of the council’s Riverside community area forum, he served as its vice-chairman from 2010 to 2012 and also sat on the authority’s planning, pensions and people select committees.
Coun Watters represented the council on outside bodies such as the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority’s scrutiny committee and South Tyneside Racial Equality Forum.
He was also a governor at St Oswald’s RC Primary School in South Shields, Hebburn’s Sue Hedley Nursery and, previously, at Mortimer Community College in South Shields.
He had represented the council on the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority and served on the management committee of community associations including Brinkburn and Mortimer.
His career in social services ran from 1974 until his retirement in 2004.