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Town a 'one-word definition of community' for new mayor after ceremony

PUBLISHED: 14:06 24 September 2019

Rev Rich Henderson pictured with Andrea Downes, Picture: Contributed

Rev Rich Henderson pictured with Andrea Downes, Picture: Contributed

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A former taxi driver has expressed her shock after becoming mayor in a moving speech at her civic service.

Andrea's 10-year-old son, Kieron'z reading. Picture: ContributedAndrea's 10-year-old son, Kieron'z reading. Picture: Contributed

The Beccles civic service, which took place at St Michael's Church in Beccles on Sunday, September 22, attracted various members of the community to welcome the new mayor Andrea Downes.

Ms Downes, who lives in the town, said: "When I joined the town council four and a half years ago I hoped I would one day be mayor, but for those of you that knew me then, you know that it would have felt like a distant pipe dream.

"Now, becoming mayor of a town that has so many wonderful, hard-working individuals and organisations is genuinely beyond my wildest dreams and fills me with enormous pride," she said.

The 45-year-old was voted into the role at a Beccles Town Council meeting in May, with youth champion Ashley Lever voted as deputy mayor.

The civic service was held at St Michael's Church in Beccles. Picture: ContributedThe civic service was held at St Michael's Church in Beccles. Picture: Contributed

Ms Downes, who hails from Surrey, fell in love with Beccles and moved to the town eight years ago with her young son Kieron.

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She said: "I never truly knew what the word community meant. It is bandied around often but for me, Beccles is a one-word definition of community."

This year, the former taxi driver will focus on mental health in her mayoral year after enduring a breakdown two years ago.

The community welcomed Beccles mayor Andrea Downes on September 22. Picture: ContributedThe community welcomed Beccles mayor Andrea Downes on September 22. Picture: Contributed

She said: "My experience as a humble taxi driver taught me so much about the hidden needs of this town. There are people living with debt, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, bereavement, addiction, domestic abuse, hoarding, everyday stresses and anxieties, the list goes on.

"This can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation that isn't obvious to the outside world," she said.

She said Beccles town council have signed up to the local authority mental health challenge and will work with councillors from Eye, Bungay and Southwold to implement the scheme in their towns.

"I really want to stress that we have an amazing team and exciting council this year.

"We have new initiatives with our mental health working party, we have our existing youth champion, mental health champion and new eco champions," she said.

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