I was elected Deputy Mayor of Lambeth at the end of March 2008. For the next year I will learn about the role prior to becoming Mayor of Lambeth for the year 2009 – 2010.
The Mayor making was a wonderful experience. Councillor Angie Meader was elected as Mayor and I as her deputy. The leader of the council, Cllr Steve Reed, nominated me and leader of the Conservatives, Cllr John Whelan, seconded my nomination. Both made speeches about why they were nominating me. It is deeply touching to be recognised by your peers and the moment was made extra special as I was joined by my sister Denise Walker, nephew Allun and my long time friend and now Deputy Mayoress Emita Griffith. I have also chosen Kym Oliver, a long term Brixton resident and business man as a consort.
The first two months as Deputy Mayor have been relatively quite, mainly due to the London elections which I am told is generally the norm. The current Mayor has been very good to me by ‘breaking me in gently’ into the role. My first event was the Lord Mayors lecture at St Thomas hospital where Hilary Benn MP gave a speech on climate change. The Mayors staff have been wonderful looking after me, giving me guidance on protocol based on years of experience with many previous Mayors and Deputy Mayors passing through their care.
I throughly enjoyed my first citizenship ceremony, where I sat in on the current Mayor to see what I needed to do. It is wonderful to see people so happy to achieve British citizenship and either better when I then took my own first ceremony. The photographer Dave Kennedy, who has provide me with photos of my first event, and registrar staff helped guide me through the day. The assembly hall at the council was packed and I had lots of hands to shake as I congratulated the new citizens. I am not a great singer, however gave a verse of God Save the Queen my best shot and then spent some time chatting to the new citizens, their families and friends – with lots more photographs as they captured their special day.
The second event I attended was the Career Academy Graduation Ceremony, where students from Lambeth college were Graduating at the Central Hall, Westminster. It was great to see young students proudly receive their certification and afterwards I took some time to talk to some of the students and their families. The Rt Hon Ed Balls MP Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families gave a speech congratulating them on their achievement. Some of the students had spent their six week paid internship at Lambeth council, where they gained experience in a ‘real work’ environment. I was impressed by their focus and ambition.
I attended a commemorative event at the West Indian Ex-Services Association in my own ward of Clapham Town. The event was too remember service people who lost their lives in the first and second world wars. I was welcomed by Neil Flannigan MBE, President of WIESA. Among the digintries I met were Parl Farquharson Q.P.M, High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; Althea A Vanderpoole Banahene, Minister-Counsellor for Antigua and Barbuda High Commission and Major Eric Burt.
The event started with some extremely thought provoking speeches remembering and giving thanks to service people who have lost their lives in both past and present wars. The rest of the afternoon was extremely colourful with wonderful West-Indian food and impromptu songs and music from Irish soldiers and Edith, a local resident and long term member of the association, gave us a song.
I spent a lot of time speaking and hearing stories from both ex-service people, the associations President and commissioners. I also met a former Mayor of Lambeth who told me tales from the 80s when he held office.
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