Firstly, I must say how privileged and honoured I feel to be representing the people of Okehampton at this time. I am pleased, having no outside ambitions, I am able to dedicate all of my time to Okehampton and its residents as mayor. I was elected to the role in May when we were still in lockdown, my investiture being a somewhat unspectacular affair on Zoom. As the year and my tenure progressed, restrictions relaxed and things started to open up. This in turn opened up opportunities for me to get out, see and be seen and properly represent the town.
My office has allowed me to witness first-hand the incredible work people are doing day-in, day-out to support our community, and had never been more important than during that initial covid outbreak. I would sincerely thank everyone who has been involved in the pandemic response across the town.
As a town council, aside from regular management, and in spite of covid-related restrictions, we have been able to complete the installation of the CCTV system and take on the management of the cemetery.
Throughout the year, our park staff have kept Simmons Park, the sensory garden, other open spaces and play parks in tip top condition enabling everyone, a beautiful, peaceful and permissible space to go during the darker days of lockdown.
This year, we have, through grants and with the help and assistance of community organisations and charitable trusts, been able to revive and refurbish some of the town’s benches, railings and other street furniture, contributed to St James Chapel in replacing the town clock, and assisted Everything Okehampton in replacing the town’s Christmas lights.
All of this with a view to freshening up the town and make it ‘the place to come’ for our residents and visitors, as we come out of the enforced hibernation. In relation to visitors, of course, the biggest event of this year must be the opening of the Dartmoor Line back in November, and I am delighted to hear it has carried over 10,000 passengers to-date.
On a personal note, one of the privileges of my role this year was to attend and support those coffee mornings of our local charities and organisations, whose fundraising had been so stymied by the pandemic. I have also had the pleasure of handing over a number of cheques to local charitable and community groups like the Museum of Dartmoor Life and Carnival Committee through the auspices of the Okehampton Town Council grant scheme. It might be opportune to remind similar organisations that grant funds are still available up the end of the financial year and can be claimed within certain conditions. Applications by the February 21.
I have also witnessed the artistic side of our community, with invitations to a concert by the Okehampton Excelsior Silver band and a show by the Get Changed Theatre group.
I have been proud to lead our civic occasions, namely Remembrance Day and our Civic Service and honoured to represent Okehampton at neighbouring civic events. On all these occasions I have met so many wonderful people, who put so much time, effort and enthusiasm into their varied and crucial organisations that benefit Okehampton and this community. Okehampton should be proud of them all.
As far as 2022 is concerned, until this weekend I would have told you that we have every intention of progressing what we have started, with further improvements to the town, like the renovation of the toilets and the prospect of resurfacing the main street. However, noting recent government output, I fear some form of ‘circuit breaker’ might be imposed after the Christmas festivities. No one knows what the New Year will bring, but being an optimist, it will be business as usual and I can only see us going from strength to strength in relation to the town, the railway and the community. If restrictions are reimposed then I know we have a strong, resilient and compassionate community, supported by organisations, charities and volunteers, that will enable us to sail smoothly through any difficulties, bringing those vulnerable members of our community, who struggle during lockdown, along with us. I am grateful for this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and safe Christmas and whatever 2022 may hold, a prosperous, and especially, healthy New Year.
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