Thatcham mayor wants to 'meet as many people as possible'
He can be spotted walking through town in his red ceremonial robe and mayoral chain and everyone knows who he is, but how well do we really know our mayor?
It has been a month since Thatcham town councillor Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) was sworn into the ceremonial role of Mayor of Thatcham.
From having doors “slammed in his face” while door knocking as a politician, the father-of-two said he is now welcomed and waved at from those who happen to pass him in the street.
“I want to attend 150 events [as mayor]," he said. "I want to go to every care home and every retirement home.
“I want to go to every school in Thatcham. On Christmas morning I want to go to a hospital or care home and meet the people.”
A sizeable goal from Mr Brooks, but calculating his 150 visits as just three a week, it a target he believes is achievable.
Mr Brooks was born and brought up in Watford but, at the age of 15, he and his family packed up and moved to South Africa where he finished his education and began a career in IT.
“I was 21 years old and had 20 staff working for me,” he said, as he reflected on the very different life he lived when on the other side of the globe. “It was wonderful to live in Africa, it really changed me.”
In XXXX he left the “big blue open skies” and made his way back to the UK.
The 70-year-old Spurs supporter moved to Thatcham in 1980 and joined an amateur dramatics group two years later.
“I used to do plays and musical shows, I thoroughly enjoyed it," he said. "It’s good fun. It’s how I met my wife.”
From there Mr Brooks built a network and became involved in running the Thatcham show, an event he likened to today’s Thatcham Family Fun Day.
“I was spotted by the Liberal Democrats,” he said. “They came up to me and said you are a man who seems to want to get involved, do you want to be a councillor?”
In February 1992 he began his political career, which saw him sit on Berkshire County Council, Newbury District Council and Thatcham Town Council.
Today he remains on the two active authorities, Thatcham Town Council and unitary authority West Berkshire District Council, where he sits as deputy leader of the opposition.
Mr Brooks has worn many corporate hats in his time, from building recruitment companies in the 80s and setting up a start-up publishing company, to being a chairman of Berkshire Fire Service and sitting on an adoption panel during his time at Berkshire County Council – the latter bringing him a “great sense of satisfaction”.
“I did that for four years,” he said. “It is the most important thing that I had achieved [at the council].”
He is now semi-retired and looking forward to a pace of life which is “less full on”.
“I have since become adjusted and have the time to be a mayor," he added.
“If I had more time I would do some amateur dramatics but I can’t play the love interests anymore!"
As mayor, Mr Brooks is heading the Platinum Jubilee legacy project, which he hopes to unveil at the Frank Hutchins Hall at the next mayor making event.
He said: “I think it is going to be something quite special that I hope will be there for decades.”