Farewell to the mascot who became a Mayor

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ON May 2, 2002, the life of Stuart Drummond changed forever. To widespread surprise, the Garlands call centre employee and Hartlepool United mascot was elected as the town’s very first-directly elected mayor.

He immediately ditched the H’Angus costume to concentrate on his new role in which he oversaw and was responsible for major decisions that affected the lives of thousands of residents in his home town. Now, 11 years on Mayor Drummond is counting down to leaving office after residents voted to scrap the mayoral system. Richard Mennear caught up with him.

RELAXING during a rare moment of quiet in the office he has called home for more than a decade, Mayor Stuart Drummond is adamant he has no regrets.

The town’s very first elected mayor came to power on the back of a wave of publicity after using his position as H’Angus the Monkey to stand in the May 2002 election.

He readily admits it was initially for a “bit of a laugh” and to give his beloved Hartlepool United some publicity.

But what started as a joke ended up with him being elected into the most powerful position in Hartlepool.

Over the past 11 years he has been re-elected twice, once with a majority of 10,000, overseen the successful Tall Ships event which came to Hartlepool in 2010, and made tough budget decisions in the wake of severe national cuts.

He has also had to deal with the daily challenges of leading Hartlepool Borough Council, while also holding the position of chair of the Police Authority in recent years.

But within a fortnight his tenure will come to an end after the town voted in November to scrap the mayoral system in favour of the new committee system.

Sunday, May 5 is Mayor Drummond’s last day before power is handed back to committees of councillors.

As he prepares to leave civic life, he speaks of his “pride and privilege” of being Mayor and praised the people of Hartlepool for making the 
difference.

When asked if he had any regrets, the 39-year-old said: “You can’t afford to have regrets.

“It is all about looking forward and learning from things that perhaps didn’t go your way.

“There is nothing for me that jumps off the page saying it was an absolute disaster.

“I always try to be balanced and have all the information to hand and then make the decisions based on the best information available, for the best reasons.

“There is nothing that I regret doing, it is all part of the learning experience.

“That isn’t to say I haven’t done anything wrong or made the wrong decisions, but that is what it is all about.

“I would like to think all of the decisions have been made absolutely for the right reasons, nothing for any political agendas and all for the benefit of the town and the people.”

Looking ahead, the dad-of-three says he has a number of “irons in the fire” but is ready for “new challenges”.

Mayor Drummond, who is married to Rebecca, said: “I want to do a few things that are quite diverse.

“This wasn’t like a 9pm to 5pm job and I think I’d find it difficult to be tied into a job where the remit is very thin.

“I want to be doing a variety of things, and I’m casting my net far and wide.”

He keeps his cards close to his chest but said there are a “couple of exciting things” he wants to get involved in before adding: “If the right opportunities come along then I will quite happily go where the jobs take me.”

Mayor Drummond confirmed he would be continuing in his role as regional lead peer for the independent group on the Local Government Association until September at least, a role which sees him provide support to independent councillors across the region.

Would he consider putting the H’Angus suit back on?

“It wouldn’t fit anymore”, he jokes - but you wouldn’t put anything past him.

And Mayor Drummond’s message for the people of Hartlepool: “I’d like to send out my thanks to everybody that has supported me during my time in office.

“It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to serve in such a position and to help make the town a little bit better.

“It is not just down to one person though and there are so many good people that really want to make a difference, it is what makes Hartlepool such a quirky place.

“It will be the people of the town that will ensure its success, it doesn’t really matter who the politicians are.”