Hartlepool Mayor says public role has affected his family life

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HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond is just weeks away from leaving his job as directly elected mayor after 11 years in the post.

In the Mail’s second instalment, the former Hartlepool United mascot-turned mayor talks about the highs and lows of being in the public eye. Richard Mennear reports.

MAYOR Stuart Drummond is defiant: “I don’t think I have ever run away from a challenge, no matter how hard it gets.”

Reflecting on his time as mayor, the former call centre worker, said at times the role can be “quite lonely” but said he thrived on the challenge.

Mayor Drummond, married to Rebecca and dad to three children, says the good aspects far outweigh the bad, but said there have been times when it has affected his family life.

The 39-year-old, who leaves on May 5 ahead of the new committee system, said: “Nobody, no matter whether they are in the public eye or not, should have to put up with some of the stuff that has gone on.

“There has been occasions where I have had people shining a torch through my front room window when my wife was breast feeding.

“You get barrages of crazy complaints from certain individuals, constantly taking up time, and it can get quite abusive and personal.

“I have managed to shield my family, but there are times when they get dragged into it.

“I don’t think my wife will be sorry to see me finish the job, that is for sure.

“But the good stuff far outweighs any of that.”

Mayor Drummond - who said he hopes he won’t be the first and last directly elected mayor - was reluctant to talk about leaving behind a legacy.

That, he said, is for others to decide.

But he did say: “I’d like to think that every decision I have made has been for the right reasons and for the benefit of the town or the people in it.

“I have always tried to engender a culture, among cabinet members and senior officers, of looking at the wider impact of decisions before we make them and to consider what it will mean.”

Mayor Drummond said he is proud that several services have been recognised nationally as areas of good practice, but there are two particular highlights.

The success of Operation Cleansweep and the 2010 visit of the Tall Ships Races, which saw dozens of ships and almost a million visitors flock to Hartlepool.

Operation Cleansweep was launched to spruce up neighbourhoods across Hartlepool through an intense week of action, including a number of agencies.

Its success led to Mayor Drummond being invited to international conferences to speak about its success.

He said: “I come up with ideas all of the time, some are daft and some never get off the ground, but some do and Operation Cleansweep is a good example.

“It was deemed best practice nationally and other councils have done similar schemes, but I would never have dreamt that I would one day be speaking in Vietnam talking to an international audience about Operation Cleansweep and how good Hartlepool is.

“Being able to promote Hartlepool is one of the most rewarding parts.”

And the Tall Ships event?

Mayor Drummond said: “That will forever be in my memory.

“To bring the rest of the world to Hartlepool through the Tall Ships Races really opened people’s eyes and broadened horizons.

“That was the one single thing that changed people’s perceptions of their own town more than anything else I have been involved in.

“For the organisers of the race to say this was one of the best events was a really proud moment and then of course we won Best Tourism Event of the Year at the VisitEngland Awards.”

Despite generating an estimated £26.5m for the local economy, the event did receive criticism after a shortfall of £720,000 which was put down to the park and ride scheme not generating enough income.

But Mayor Drummond added: “I know it got some bad press about the funding, but it never went over budget, we had a budget of £4.5m, which it came in under budget.

“We just didn’t get in some of the revenue we had planned for and a lot of that was out of our control.

For what we spent, it was more than worth it and it will leave a legacy for many years. My one hope is that we get it back. When times are better I hope whoever is in charge at the council will bring them back.”