`

Family tribute to ‘devoted and inspirational’ former Hartlepool council leader

Russell Hart with his family
Russell Hart with his family

The family of former Hartlepool council leader Russell Hart have paid tribute to the ‘devoted and inspirational’ man.

Mr Hart passed away this week at the age of 70.

Russell Hart

Russell Hart

The son and grandson of a miner, he joined the Labour Party at Easington at 15, following grandfather James Bell, an Easington District Councillor who was chairman of the council between 1971 and 1972. Russell served Easington and Hartlepool Labour Parties in many capacities,” said wife Olwyn. After moving to Hartlepool, he joined the constituency Labour Party, becoming an active member of the-then Park Ward and standing as one of the Parliamentary candidates in 1989.

“From 1990, Russell represented the Rossmere Ward, becoming deputy leader to Bryan Hanson and then leader.

“He said on many occasions there was ‘no greater honour than to represent the town at regional, national and international level and having the privilege and pleasure of working alongside many dedicated, talented people, including Bryan and Gwynneth Hanson.’

“Russell was passionate about supporting councillors, whatever their political persuasion.”

Leaving politics in 2000 was a huge wrench for Russell, but he continued to seek out challenges that would make a difference to peoples’ lives.

Olwyn Hart

Coun Hart played a key role in the development of Hartlepool Marina and City Challenge projects; securing independence from Cleveland County Council in 1996; developing partnerships with police as a member of Cleveland Police, and control of resources as Chair of Resources and Council leader. A magistrate for more than 20 years, he rose to chairman of the bench, and was made an Honorary Alderman in 2014

“Leaving politics in 2000 was a huge wrench for Russell, but he continued to seek out challenges that would make a difference to peoples’ lives,” said Olwyn.

“He became Non-Executive Director for South Durham and Tees Valley Health Authority and then Chair of Hartlepool and North Tees Trust, securing Foundation Trust Status.

“He retired due to ill health, but still followed politics in Parliament avidly, was keenly interested in what was happening with the National Health Service and still a committed party member.”

Russell is survived by Olwyn, son Russ, daughter Jeanette and partner Mike, grandchildren Harriet and William and step-grandchildren Andrew and Thomas. “Above all, Russell was very much a family man, devoted and inspirational to his loving family,” said Olwyn.