COUNCILLORS from all parties paid tribute to Mayor Stuart Drummond’s “integrity” and passion for Hartlepool at his final full council meeting.
The town’s very first directly-elected Mayor was presented with a season ticket for his beloved Hartlepool United as a farewell gift from the 33 councillors inside the council chamber.
The post, which the former football club mascot has held since 2002, will cease to exist from Sunday after a referendum voted in favour of a new committee system.
Council chairman Stephen Akers-Belcher led the tributes at the end of the meeting, which was attended by Mayor Drummond’s wife Rebecca and three children.
Labour group leader, councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “I’d like to commend the hard work and commitment that Stuart Drummond has given to Hartlepool over the past 11 years.”
Conservative group leader Ray Wells added: “It is no secret that Stuart started his career as a bit of a joke but on becoming elected he has worn his heart on his sleeve and it is for that reason we should all wish him the very best for the future.”
Putting Hartlepool First group leader Geoff Lilley,said he had done a “phenomenal job” adding: “All of his decisions have always been what is right for the town and I am sorry to see him go.”
Labour councillors Carl Richardson and Ged Hall also paid tribute while Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive added: “It has been a pleasure working with you.
“It has been a rollercoaster at times but a lot has been achieved.”
Independent councillor John Lauderdale praised the “insight, knowledge and expertise” Mayor Drummond built up over 11 years while fellow cabinet member Paul Thompson, an independent councillor, thanked the mayor for the “learning experience”.
Independent councillor Cath Hill said: “If every elected member on Hartlepool Council had the honesty and integrity of Stuart Drummond, and every member had given their support and backing over the last 11 years, then the town would be a different place.”
Mayor Drummond, who joked it is rare in politics to be given six months notice, added: “I will look back with fantastic memories but I am really looking forward to new challenges.
“With the current climate, I’m probably going at the right time as I don’t envy any of the decisions that you are going to have to make.”
He said councillors had assumed control without an election and said now was the time to show leadership, be decisive and show the people of Hartlepool “that you are up to it”.
From Monday the leader of the council will be Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher.