A Hartlepool councillor has told of his immense pride after being chosen as the new ceremonial mayor of his hometown.
Labour’s Coun Rob Cook was selected by fellow councillors at the annual meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council.
It’s unbelievable to be able to represent Hartlepool. I’m so proud that my chest is pumping outCoun Rob Cook
He takes over the role from Coun Mary Fleet, while his wife Brenda becomes mayoress.
Coun Cook, who serves the De Bruce ward, was bursting with pride after being given the honour.
He said: “To become the mayor of Hartlepool is something I never dreamed would happen to me. It was always something that happened to others.
“Who would have thought that a Hartlepool lad like me could become Mayor? It’s beyond belief.
“To say that I am proud and honoured to become the Mayor of my home town is an under-statement to say the least.
“It’s unbelievable to be able to represent Hartlepool. I’m so proud that my chest is pumping out.
“Words really defeat me. It’s a real honour.”
Coun Cook is a governor of Clavering Primary School, Barnard Grove Primary School, English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College, and also a member of the West View Advice and Resource Centre Board and West View Project Board.
He has vowed to have an “open door policy” during his year in the role.
He added: “From day one, I will have an open door policy, which means everyone, councillors and officers alike.
“I want this chamber to be used to concentrate on the strategic work of council, and not be involved in personal attacks or abuse of any kind, and that includes all parties.
“The fight to retain hospital services will continue.
“Only recently have we stopped the closure of fertility services and prevented neo-natal services being moved further afield.
“Retention of services and bringing other services back to Hartlepool will continue to be a top priority for the council.
“Young people are our future, and I will continue to support schools in every way I can to drive up standards and ensure children get the best start in life.
“I want to help promote civic life, and I offer an open invitation to all schools, and I will visit each and every one if they so wish.
“I am extremely positive about the future, and everyone will agree that the local community will always be at the heart of everything that we do.”
By becoming mayoress, Brenda Cook follows in the footsteps of her mother, Edie.
Coun Cook added: “Brenda being the new mayoress of this great town of Hartlepool is actually unique.
“Her father Alderman Dennis Waller and her dear mother Edie were the last mayor and mayoress of the ancient town of Hartlepool (Old Hartlepool), which is exactly 50 years to this day, May 26, 1966.
“I think you will agree that she can be doubly proud.
“I am really looking forward to the next year as things unfold in Hartlepool, and I will continue to work with all councillors to achieve the very best for our town, and make sure it is a place where people are proud to live, work and play.”
Meanwhile, Coun Paul Beck was selected as deputy mayor.
Coun Alan Clark, who proposed Coun Cook as mayor, said: “As well as a proud family man, Rob is dedicated to people young and old, but is also an entertainer.
“A member of Hartlepool Male Voice Choir, Rob recently represented Hartlepool at the Royal Albert Hall, in London.
“Rob is passionate about social justice and social mobility, which I would expect nothing less of from someone within the Labour Party.
“Rob has served the people of West View and King Oswy well in his time on the council.
“The role of ceremonial mayor is one that should ensure fairness and balance for all members, no matter your political persuasion.
“It also makes the holder of this role the first citizen of our great town.
“I know that this is something that Rob takes seriously, and he will represent Hartlepudlians across the region with aplomb and the utmost integrity.
“I have no doubt that there is more that unites us than divides us as councillors when it comes to the big issues affecting Hartlepool, maybe with the exception of the EU referendum, and I believe Rob can unite us.”