'It's been a privilege' - Kingsclere Parish Council chairman steps down
“Look after your council and then they will deliver for the community in spade loads.”
Those were the words of wisdom from Kingsclere parish councillor John Sawyer as he stepped down as chairman after seven years.
Mr Sawyer, a retired deputy head of a comprehensive school, has been replaced by councillor Clive Mussett.
Mr Sawyer, 68, first became a councillor in August 2012 after the mass resignation of the existing council, before becoming chairman three years later when Alan Denness departed.
In that time, Kingsclere has adopted its neighbourhood plan with an 85 per cent approval rate, and also scooped an award in the Fullers Hampshire and Isle of Wight Village of the Year competitions, winning ‘Excellence in Localism’ while finishing runner-up in the ‘Best Small Village’ category.
So what is Mr Sawyer most proud of in his time as chairman?
“Running a serious council that gets down to business,” he said.
“I’m proud of the fact that the council has, for the most part, spoken with one voice.
“We’re not partisan or party based, we’re a group of people who want to do the best they can for the village.
“I can talk about projects, but it’s actually the people – taking the council with you.
“We have disagreements but come through them, work together and nobody becomes enemies.”
Mr Sawyer first moved to Kingsclere in September 1986 as a “typical commuter resident”.
He retired on a Wednesday, and had been planning a very late gap year, until reading in the Newbury Weekly News the following day that the entire parish council had stepped down.
Following seven years as chairman, he is stepping down ahead of the 2023 parish council elections to give Mr Mussett the chance to establish himself as chairman.
He will then step down as a councillor next year, 18 months after his wife, Fiona, also resigned as a councillor.
Mr Sawyer continued: “I made the decision in January for personal reasons in that Fiona and I are getting older.
“The council is in a strong position – we have excellent councillors with a range of skills.
“We have accountants, lawyers, businessmen, civil servants, who can make a huge contribution to the council, so I thought better to step down when the council is strong.”
He said it had been “an absolute joy and privilege”.
Mr Sawyer was gifted a pair of personalised crystal wine glasses by the parish council at the jubilee party at the Fieldgate Centre on Saturday, June 4, while there was also a gift for the deputy chairman Mick Farey, who has also stepped down.
Does Mr Sawyer have any advice for Mr Mussett?
“I’d say look after your council and then they will deliver for the community in spade loads.
“If you allow the whole thing to splinter and break up, its reputation goes downhill, and if that happens – that old adage of reputations are easily lost and hard earned is very true.”
Speaking at a parish council meeting on May 30, Mr Mussett said: “I’d like to thank both John and Mick for their term on the council.
“It goes without saying on our behalf, thank you for all your support and I’m sure everyone is very grateful that you’re going to be staying on the council for another year.”