WITH more than 30 years of experience representing his community, Les Ellington knows the ropes of local politics.
He has served as chairman of Dacre Parish Council for 20 of his 34 years with the council, as well as being a borough councillor for two decades.
He was deputy mayor of the borough in 1996 and his eight years on Pateley Bridge Town Council have included time as the town’s mayor.
But the forthcoming year as Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate - with wife Chris as Mayoress - will bring a new set of responsibilities and commitments.
“I’ve been covering the role of cabinet member with the Conservative group so that’s quite involved and you don’t have time for any other things,” he said.
“I’ve avoided this job while doing the others. This is more promotional and ambassadorial.
“Rather than making a decision for the council, you are making a decision for the district. You are the borough’s ambassador and are selling it, which obviously in these times is important.”
Now semi-retired from his financial services and property management career, Coun Ellington said he still enjoys meeting people and helping them with problems through his role as a councillor - and the coming year will see him meet hundreds of new faces.
He hopes this will bring benefits to his own ward, Nidd Valley, and the surrounding area.
“It has been a long time since we have had a ‘northern’ mayor, as you might say, and I will hopefully be able to promote all the good things out here in the next 12 months, working with other mayors in the district,” he said.
“It’s important we all work together. We have got a vast rural area but farming is in decline in numbers, so the tourism numbers - the people it employs - are taking over from what used to be the rural economy.”
With councils around the country making cuts and redundancies, the Advertiser last month published questions raised by some town and parish councillors about spending on mayor-making events. But Coun Ellington said the public had not shown much concern about the spending and he defended the Royal Hall ceremony and dinner which will ne held at the Harrogate International Centre tonight as part of the tradition of British society.
“This is what it’s about,” he said. “It’s promoting the area, promoting one another, and if you work it out as to what the mayors do you are getting very good value for money.”
Among the guests at the ceremony were the Mayor of Luchon, Harrogate’s twin town in southern France. Coun Ellington hopes to strengthen the relationship between the towns and encourage visitors to the Harrogate area.
As well as representing the district, Coun Ellington will be supporting his two chosen charities - the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the Scouts in Nidderdale - throughout the year.
Among his first duties will be the opening of Harrogate’s new skateboard park in the Valley Gardens next Saturday. Coun Ellington, who proved he is a hands-on mayor with a trip on a new zip wire during his year in office in Pateley Bridge, expects he will be testing the skate ramps after cutting the ribbon.
He added: “They’ll be picking me up off the floor - I just hope I’m not the first call for the air ambulance!”