Outgoing South Tyneside Mayor thanks residents for support during 'extraordinary' two years in office
South Tyneside Council’s outgoing mayor has thanked residents for their support after reflecting on an “extraordinary” two years in office.
Councillor Norman Dick was appointed as Mayor in May 2019, originally for the usual 12-month period, in which he enjoyed a busy schedule of civic engagements and key events representing the borough, meeting communities and fundraising for the Mayor’s Charity.
However, plans for a Mayoral handover were put on hold in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic struck and the country went into lockdown.
The Mayor and Mayoress his good friend Jean Williamson, were among the 1.5 million people advised to ‘shield’ and avoid any face-to-face contact.
With key events cancelled, postponed or delivered in other ways, the pandemic marked a new direction for the way the civic office operated, with the Mayor and Mayoress performing much of their duties safely from home.
This included maintaining a connection with residents and supporting them to stay safe at home by delivering messages, sending personal letters and screening short films via the council’s website and social media channels.
Following the appointment of a new Mayor and Deputy Mayor at South Tyneside Council’s annual meeting on Tuesday (May 18), outgoing Mayor Cllr Norman Dick has reflected on his time in office.
“The Mayoress and I have had an amazing time,” he said.
“We have also been in the unique position of seeing key annual events come full circle, with many taking a digital format the second time round.
“From one year to another, they couldn’t have been more different.
“It’s certainly been an extraordinary experience and a time we will both cherish forever.”
During his time in office the Mayor and Mayoress were involved in events including Armed Forces Day and Remembrance commemorations, the Summer Parade, meeting The Duke of Gloucester on a visit to the borough, and launching the #Proud to Support campaign centred on the response to Covid
Key highlights from their first few months in office included the annual Armed Forces Day celebrations and community Summer Parade.
The Mayor and Mayoress also attended the dedication of the Tommy Silhouette in Haven Point as well as an event commemorating ‘Operation Banner’ – the British Armed Forces operation in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007.
As an ex-Army soldier, and one of the first on the streets in 1969, the Mayor Cllr Dick was honoured to lay a wreath on behalf of all the soldiers involved in the operation.
In 2019 the Mayor and Mayoress also met His Royal Highness, The Duke of Gloucester, when he planted a tree at Jubilee Wood, opened an exhibition at Jarrow Hall and twinned the museum with its Italian counterpart.
In addition, the pair unveiled a blue plaque honouring the late South Tyneside doctor Anne Seymour, greeted runners at the Great North Run finish line and hosted several charity events raising money for the Mayor’s chosen charities – South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade and NAAFI Break South Tyneside.
During the 2019 Remembrance commemorations, the Mayor and Mayoress launched the annual Poppy Appeal and joined communities in poignant services and events across the borough.
They later officially switched on South Tyneside’s Christmas lights in South Shields, Jarrow and Hebburn town centres and opened the annual Christmas Fair.
Despite a turbulent 2020, there were also many highlights.
One of the Mayor and Mayoress’s final face-to-face civic engagements, only weeks before lockdown, were as special guests onboard Navy vessel RFA Tidespring while it was off South Tyneside’s shores in March 2020.
Subsequent tributes to the borough’s Armed Forces Community took on a new format with Anzac Day, VE Day and VJ Day, Merchant Navy Day, Remembrance and Armistice marked online.
The Mayor and Mayoress also launched the #Proud to Support campaign, showcasing the great work and community spirit of South Tyneside individuals and wrote a special ‘thank you’ letter to every single person and group who were nominated by the public for their efforts though the pandemic.
They also led thanks to the borough’s NHS staff, carers, key workers and volunteers, joined in celebrations for the NHS 72nd anniversary and led a special service for Srebrenica.
Over the Christmas period, the Mayor and Mayoress starred in the borough’s first Virtual Christmas Light Switch on event – a short film bringing Christmas cheer to local communities in partnership with The Customs House.
More recent online events have included Holocaust Memorial Day, Workers’ Memorial Day and Anzac Day, tributes to Hebburn Town FC on winning the FA Vase and congratulating community heroes at the very first virtual #LoveSouthTyneside Awards ceremony.
The South Tyneside Mayor’s Office was also ‘commended’ in the National Association of Civic Officers’ ‘Civic Office of the Year’ 2020 Awards, in recognition of how the civic party, supported by the officer team, stepped up to reach people in new ways during the pandemic.
The Mayor added: “It has been a real honour to represent and serve the borough and showcase the many wonderful, kind-hearted people who go the extra mile to make this area great.
“This is no more evident than through our #ProudtoSupport campaign where we heard such inspiring stories of the incredible roles that people played as part of the coronavirus response effort.
“The Mayoress and I would like to thank the people of South Tyneside for their ongoing support throughout our time in office.
“I’d also like to thank the Mayoress for her dedication over these past two years.
“She’s not only been by my side on civic duties, but a constant support and friend during a very challenging year for us all.”
Watch an overview of Cllr Dick’s time as Mayor on the council’s YouTube page at https://youtu.be/DsuEZ8iZSRs