What is your job title?
I’m the Mayor of the City of Sunderland.
What does that mean?
Mayors are often seen as the first citizen of their towns. Today in the UK, the Mayor is generally one of two types – the civic mayoral role or the executive mayoral role, such as the Mayor of London. The Mayor of Sunderland is a civic and ambassadorial role – I represent Sunderland.
How did you get the job?
Every year the majority group of councillors that control the council holds an AGM. In that meeting nominations are put forward for posts on the decision-making Cabinet, for chairing committees that oversee functions such as planning, and for the posts of Deputy Mayor. In 2015, as a Ryhope Ward Labour councillor, I was nominated for the post of Deputy Mayor.
What does your working day entail?
It really varies. I can be visiting a charity, opening a shop, going to a school, attending a function, representing Sunderland in a neighbouring authority, or I might be a special guest at a group or organisation that is linked to the city It is also my function to welcome any Royal visitor to the city and to annually visit the Fourth Regiment Royal Artillery – the city’s ‘adopted regiment’ – who have the Freedom of the City, and host them when they exercise their freedom with a parade in Sunderland. I also oversee several fundraising events where the Mayoral charities are beneficiaries. My chosen charities for the year St Benedict’s Hospice, Headlight mental health charity and Diabetes UK.
What’s the best part of your job?
As a councillor and working in the community, you know there are always lot of volunteers working behind the scenes in your area, and as a Mayor you get to see this on more of a city scale. There are more than 275,000 people in Sunderland and it never ceases to amaze me how much good there is in people who give so much time and effort to their neighbourhoods and communities.
And the worst?
Knowing that being Mayor is going to end. There’s so many people I haven’t visited, or groups that I haven’t seen. And, for some functions and visits, I wear a hat, the robes and the chain, so it can get very hot.
Ever had any disasters?
There was one event where I went to make a speech and arrived to find out that the organisers had changed the venue and they hadn’t told me but I’m too polite to say who this was.
What are some of your fondest memories from your time as mayor?
As Mayor I lead the city’s Remembrance Services at the War Memorial near Mowbray Park. We get thousands of people attending it, and there’s hundreds of military personnel and veterans, representatives from the emergency services, and people from across the community joining the parade. My grandfather was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme so to lead the service and make my speech in the year of the 100th anniversary of the battle was poignant for me.
What advice would you give to your successor?
Respect people and their views and opinions. Enjoy the role – there’s a lot of variety in it so you have to be curious and patient. And prepare to be surprised.