Nic takes on mayoral chains in Morpeth for second time

Morpeth Town councillors - including Mayor Nic Best, third from left in front row, and Deputy Mayor Jack Gebhard, third from right in front row - and Town Clerk Tracey Bell, second from left in front row, Mayoress Joan Howard, centre of front row, Mace Bearer Ken Denholm, second from right in front row, and Mayors Chaplain Mike Willis, right in middle row. Picture by Ken Stait.
Morpeth Town councillors - including Mayor Nic Best, third from left in front row, and Deputy Mayor Jack Gebhard, third from right in front row - and Town Clerk Tracey Bell, second from left in front row, Mayoress Joan Howard, centre of front row, Mace Bearer Ken Denholm, second from right in front row, and Mayors Chaplain Mike Willis, right in middle row. Picture by Ken Stait.

The proposal for Nic Best to become the new Mayor of Morpeth was unanimously approved by his fellow town councillors.

And the Green Party member has called on the local authority, together with organisations and groups in the area, to build on what they have in common instead of emphasising the differences.

Contact Morpeth Mental Health chairman Rhona Dunn receives a cheque from Coun Andrew Tebbutt, the 2016/17 Mayor of Morpeth. Picture by Ken Stait.

Contact Morpeth Mental Health chairman Rhona Dunn receives a cheque from Coun Andrew Tebbutt, the 2016/17 Mayor of Morpeth. Picture by Ken Stait.

Coun Best was in the leading Morpeth civic role in 2014/15 and the Mayoress for that year, Joan Howard, will be the 2017/18 Mayoress.

His charity for the year ahead is Wansbeck Valley Food Bank. Earlier in the traditional ceremony at the Town Hall last week, the previous Mayor – Coun Andrew Tebbutt – revealed that £10,908.20 had been raised for Contact Morpeth Mental Health during his 12 months in the position.

There was also warm applause when Coun Jack Gebhard, 24, was unanimously voted in as Deputy Mayor.

Coun Best’s other voluntary positions include being chairman of both Friends of Morpeth Museum chairman and Northumberland Credit Union. He said: “It is an honour and a privilege to be chosen to be Mayor of Morpeth – and doubly so to be chosen to serve a second time. I only hope I can live up to your expectations.

“Congratulations to the outgoing Mayor.

“Coun Andrew Tebbutt undertook a really challenging task, juggling the roles of county councillor and Mayor of Morpeth in an election year, and still managed to raise an impressive sum for his charity.

“And congratulations and welcome to our new Deputy Mayor, Coun Jack Gebhard, who is by far the youngest to take on that role but who bears a name strongly rooted in Morpeth’s history.

“The potential double-act between Jack and me reflects the new-look town council, which has a powerful combination of youth and experience.

“But what we all have in common, both newly-elected and re-elected councillors, is that we all have the best interests of Morpeth at heart.

“I expect we may disagree at times about exactly what is best for the town and I don’t doubt that those differences will be fully explored.

“However, especially after a hard-fought and bruising election campaign, it is important to remember – and keep reminding ourselves – that every one of us on the council has the best interests of Morpeth at heart and so we should respect each other even while disagreeing.

“The town council has assumed the role of guardians of Morpeth’s heritage and identity and, in my view, we now face perhaps our stiffest challenge – to retain Morpeth’s character and identity in the face of large-scale expansion.

“For this we have the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan as a starting point and I’m looking not so much at the planning policies, as it also contains a wide range of community actions that together make the framework for an action plan for the town council and our partner organisations.

“Yes, the town council needs to work – and cooperate with – a wide range of organisations. These include our partners on the Town Team, the Chamber of Trade, Sanderson Arcade and Greater Morpeth Development Trust, and all the wealth of community groups that Morpeth is so lucky to have, and sometimes I think we don’t know how just how lucky we are. And very importantly, we now have the opportunity to rebuild our relationship with the county council. So let the town council reach out to all these organisations and groups and together build (metaphorically speaking) on what we have in common to the benefit of the town, rather than emphasising our differences.

“My charity for the coming year is the Wansbeck Valley Food Bank and I hope to raise awareness of its work and help recruit much-needed volunteers, as well as raise funds.

“I hope you will all support the civic, fund-raising and other events throughout the year.”

Coun Best also chose New Life Christian Centre Minister Mike Willis to be the 2017/18 Mayor’s Chaplain.

Coun Tebbutt thanked all the councillors who are not returning to serve the town.

His speech also included the following: “When I took office 12 months ago, I knew it was a challenge for a councillor on both Northumberland County Council and Morpeth Town Council to take on the onerous role of Mayor.

“I gave a commitment to maintain my responsibilities as a dual-hatted councillor, as well as perform the offices of Mayor. I believe I achieved that commitment, but I must pay particular tribute to two people who assisted me in that – namely Alison Byard and Ron Forster, both of whom willingly supported me in various functions and at times deputised for me, particularly when I was ill over Christmas. Thank you to both of you and Ron, you have been a superb Deputy Mayor.

“It has been a very good year for my chosen charity thanks to a range of organisations and individuals who helped raise a lot of money. I want to thank them all. It is perhaps a little invidious to pick out individuals, but I want to thank Philippa Waldie at The Sun Inn and Wendy Smith at Café des Amis for hosting events that raised lots of money. Then all those people who helped on the day of the Mistletoe Fair when we raised an astonishing £2,400 during the day.

“Three others must be mentioned; Barbara Waldie, who keeps thinking of different ways of raising money for my charity, Rhona Dunn for her Tree of Life commitment and general support as chairman of Contact, and finally my Mayoress, fellow councillor and, of course, my wife, Joan.

“Not just for her ongoing support, but for a woman who is frightened of water, is known as a careful driver and generally is no risk-taker for zip-wiring across the Tyne from the top of the Baltic earlier this year – and absolutely loving it. She raised £800 for Contact that afternoon.”

Coun Gebhard mentioned his grandfather, also Jack Gebhard, who was a role model in the community. He added: “I will bring energy and enthusiasm to the role. The people of Morpeth were badly let down by the previous county-council administration.

“With Conservative groups as the largest party at County Hall and on Morpeth Town Council, we will work hard to ensure that Morpeth has a brighter future.”