With Bridgnorth’s Mayor Making this month, What’s What decided to have a look at this ancient office and see how it evolved, and to meet the incoming Mayor, Connie Baines to find out what a modern Mayor does.The role of Mayor of Bridgnorth dates back almost 200 years; the first Mayor was Joshua Sing, who took office on 1st January 1836. Our first lady Mayor was Phoebe Matilda Weale in 1932. The Mayor was an alderman of the town appointed by his fellows. Connie explained that today the role has three main components: Head of the Town Council, Bridgnorth’s representative with other towns in Shropshire and our twin towns of Thiers and Schrobenhausen, and as the ‘First Citizen of the Town’, Connie sees it as a prime aim to raise the profile of Bridgnorth – making sure that Bridgnorth gets its fair share of resources and opportunities.
Connie went on: “There is also a strong link with the armed forces; particularly linking the RAF and Army with the community. Within the Mayoral year, the Mayor will try to get as much contact with as many organisations as possible, supporting all the endeavours of people within the town.”
The Mayor also has close liaison with the MP and High Sheriff, and can also run his/her own initiatives, such as Val Gill’s highly successful ‘Bridgnorth’s Got Talent’. Connie has already been Mayor, and knows full well what a big commitment it is, and not one to be taken lightly. “I can find myself planting trees one day, doing a litter pick, attending an RAF parade, going to a Brownies tea party or visiting a primary school assembly. I love it, particularly working with the children in the area and really enjoy generally being of service to the people of Bridgnorth.”
She adds with a chuckle: “I do get invited to lots of functions – and this year I’m determined not to eat too much!”
The Mayor is an entirely voluntary, elected, nonpolitical post and all Mayors are Town Councillors, and come from all walks of life; Connie herself is a retired police officer, and works tirelessly for the Crime Prevention Panel, which she set up twenty years ago, as well as organising the annual ‘Crucial Crew’ event for Year 6 children as they prepare to move to secondary education.
The Mayor Making Ceremony takes place on 12th May at the Town Hall, and marks the passing of office from one Mayor to the next. “It’s very formal and a little bit daunting; there are so many people there and it’s the first time wearing the heavy robes that go with the job” said Connie, “but hopefully second time around will be less so. It’s followed on 15th May by Civic Sunday – a Church Service at St Mary’s Church, and a parade which all are welcome to attend.”
The ceremonial dress is a testament to traditions, and the role of Mayor is upholding those traditions; but it can sometimes get an amusing reaction – when Connie was Mayor last time she was welcoming a group of visiting school children and was highly amused when one looked up at her wide-eyed and asked “Are you the Queen”?!