A former market trader has becomes Nuneaton and Bedworth’s new Mayor. Jeff Clarke, famed for his family fruit and veg stall in Nuneaton town centre, is the borough’s new first citizen.
After the civic chain was placed around his neck, he told a packed council chamber: “I am absolutely overwhelmed’. With family roots in both Bedworth and Nuneaton, it was a huge moment for the dad who has been both a borough and county councillor for more than three decades.
What’s more, he is not the only member of his family to have ever worn the famed red civic robes. His grandfather, Alderman Bob Chaberlain, was the mayor of what was then the old Nuneaton council twice – in 1949 and also in 1951.
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The new Mayor spoke about his pride about being the first citizen at what is a special time for the nation. “I am particularly pleased to be called to serve in this year of celebration of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee,” he said.
“I will endeavour, wherever possible, to attend as many events, street parties as I can. I know that in addition to the events organised by the council, there are already some 30 or more events already planned across Nuneaton and Bedworth, that are being organised by many groups, across all areas, to celebrate The Queen’s 70 glorious years as our monarch – they will have my support and the support of all members.”
During his time on the family market stall, Jeff took his first steps into public office as chair of the Nuneaton Market Traders moving on to chair the National Markets Federation but his venture into politics came much earlier as a youngster. “I used to go with my brother and we used to take people to go and vote.
“I can remember that far back, the need to get people involved and engaged. The reason I got involved in politics is that I want to see everyone treated fairly – I have tried to live by this principle throughout my political career.”
He went on: “As mayor, I hope to see the borough continue to grow and improve its opportunities to provide jobs, safe houses for our people, so that they feel that they have a bright future and can make their homes here for many years to come. We now have opportunities in this borough that we have dreamed about for decades. I am looking forward to seeing our Transforming Nuneaton project beginning to take shape and the emerging Transforming Bedworth programme become a reality.”
He said that during his year in office he will be driven by two things: “The greatness of the borough and the unity of its people.” Every year the borough’s mayor chooses a charity to support through the civic appeal and he is due to announce his next week.
“I want to keep it under wraps till then,” he said. During his year in office his consort will be his daughter Sarah.
He knows his onions
When council leader, Cllr Kris Wilson, nominated him to become mayor, he spoke about his market background and joked ‘He knows his onions’. He also spoke about one of the new Mayor’s ‘greatest achievements’ – the removal of the old, lorry-battered bridge in Old Hinckley Road – and how he had to capture the moment on camera for him.
“He was happy as a lad in a sandbox, had his hi-vis hard hat on and I have to say, the resulting pictures of him smiling gleefully after over 20 years work is something to behold,” he said. “We do give him a bit of stick over it – we do pull that picture out every now and again to show just how happy Jeff can actually be”
He went on: “His roots and his heart are truly here in Nuneaton and Bedworth – he is a man from the area, he has family from Bedworth and also family from Nuneaton. In all of my dealings with him, over the past 18 years, every single thing he has done has been to further and better the lives of people in Nuneaton and Bedworth.
“You may have had disagreements with him, I have had disagreements with him too, but it has always been in a place of passion and dedication for this borough. I can think of no one more deserving than Jeff Clarke to be our mayor.”
His nomination was seconded by the outgoing Mayor, councillor Rob Tromans, who described him as a friend and a mentor. No other nominations were made so Cllr Clarke was elected as Mayor and Cllr Martin Walsh, a Bedworth Slough representative, was elected as deputy Mayor.