Councillor Michelle Thomas was sworn in as Henley Mayor yesterday at the Town Hall in the Queen Elizabeth II hall. Councillor Sarah Miller handed over the chain of office at the traditional mayor making ceremony.
Councillor Ken Arlett nominated Councillor Michelle Thomas. He said, “Councillor Michelle Thomas was elected to this Council 3 years ago, I remember speaking to Michelle before the elections, I believe she was a bit apprehensive about the amount of time she would have to give when elected, so I suggested that there was only a couple of evening meetings every 6 weeks, before I could say anymore Michelle agreed to stand, hence I had no time to mention Sub Committees and Working Groups, which there are many.
“Before being elected to Henley Town Council, Councillor Michelle Thomas had been a campaigner to keep LA Fitness in Newtown Road as a Community Asset, which eventually was converted into another Care Home. For some reason the Care Home decided to close off a footpath from Mill Lane to Newtown Road, not to be outdone 3 years later Cllr Thomas is still trying to get the foot path reopened, this is the type of determination Cllr Thomas has brought to the Council.
“Once elected to Henley Town Council, Councillor Thomas organised the Education march around town, this in protest at a lack of government funding for schools, some 500 adults and children following behind, many carrying banners. Councillor Thomas gave the most robust speech’s before and after the march, receiving rapturous support from her followers.”
Henley Mayor, Michelle said, “I think you will see from my smile that I am so proud to be Mayor of Henley . Over the last few days I have been overwhelmed with so many messages of goodwill it really has been rather moving. Councillors, thank you for placing your confidence in me to have all of your votes at mayor elect means everything to me and I can assure you this will sustain me throughout the coming year. I have lived in Henley now for 17 years and one of its many strengths is its capacity for volunteering and this was more than highlighted during the pandemic when it seemed at lightning speed the Mutual Aid group was established. Volunteers came forward for the for the vaccine roll out. Day to day so many organisations and so many individuals who give their time to so many causes – however, as a volunteer myself I don’t find it easy to reach out to other volunteers and that got me thinking – how can we bring volunteers together in one place? With the help of Councillor Lambert we are going establish a social media page to be named The Henley Volunteer Network. This will be launched at an event during the national volunteer week which coincides this year with the platinum jubilee but every year it takes place on 1-7 June. This is a week long event that I would like to get established here in Henley – a thank you to all volunteers in the town. Now I know that the turnaround is extremely tight – but with your help I am sure we can make it work. If there are any businesses out there which can help with this I will be grateful.”
Michelle announced that she will be raising money for Covid catchup lessons for primary schools and to support Greener Henley’s proposal to establish a hub in the town centre.
Councillor Kellie Hinton proposed that Councillor Donna Crook be elected as the Deputy Mayor and was voted for. Afterwards, Donna said, “Thank you but it’s all Kellie’s fault, She put me up to it, but honestly what can I say other than thank you to Kellie for nominating me and for Stefan for seconding and to those that have faith in me including my family and those that aren’t here today. It really is an honour and a privilege to be stood here and really looking forward to being Deputy Mayor along with my daughter Katie as my consort and to help support our wonderful new mayor Cllr Thomas. Just so you know I would gladly step in when ever it’s anything to do with cake or dogs, and I look forward to working with all Councillors in the coming year.”
Councillor Sarah Mayor gave a speech about her Mayoral year. She said, “Although seemingly out of Covid during my term as Mayor, it was still a tricky year with many events cancelled and people still feeling unsure and a little unsafe to venture out to crowded places. And rightly so. This cautiousness was quite valid but this did impact somewhat on my fundraising. Sarah raised over £5,000 for her two charities; Henley & Peppard Branch of Royal British Legion and Regatta for Disabled. She said, “Normally at this time I would be handing over a cheque to my charities, but as money is still coming in, I have decided to delay and hold a small reception at a later date where I can hand over a cheque to you both and enjoy a glass of fizz.” During her mayoral year, Sarah also raised awareness of Henley Plastic Reduction and has some projects she is working on which she will announce later. I would like to say a special thanks to Lance Corporal Grace Iveson – she has been my Mayor’ss cadet this year and it’s been a privilege to meet such a dedicated and professional young lady. Thank you for being by my side for my engagements.”
Town Clerk, Sheridan Jacklin-Edward commented: “We have not had a full Mayor Making ceremony, without social distancing and livestreaming since 2019. It is wonderful to come together again as a town to celebrate the achievements of the last 12 months and look to the future.”
He added: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Mayor, Councillor Sarah Miller and Deputy Mayor, Councillor Michelle Thomas for their dedication and public service. There have been many highlights and milestones this year, from the return of the Santa Fun Run, the installation of the Slovenian Hayrack, Heroes Return, the May Fayre and of course the Civic Dinner, not to mention numerous achievements at committee and working group level, including the successful launch of Henley Adventure Golf. Mayor Sarah Miller and Deputy Mayor Michelle Thomas have provided exceptional leadership during this time – we salute them!”