New Harrogate mayor to follow in family footsteps

Coun Stuart Martin, who will officially take up the Harrogate borough mayoral role in May.
Coun Stuart Martin, who will officially take up the Harrogate borough mayoral role in May.

For Harrogate's newest mayor, donning the robes is the latest in a long line of proud family service in the district.

Councillor Stuart Martin was nominated as the borough's next mayor in March, with the Ripon Moorside councillor saying he was "delighted" about the appointment.

Coun Stuart Martin with the Queen during her visit to Ripon in 2004.

Coun Stuart Martin with the Queen during her visit to Ripon in 2004.

"I'm delighted, it's something I've wanted to do since I've been on Harrogate Borough Council and never felt ready, but now I do and I'm committed to doing my best in the role," Coun Martin told the local democracy reporting service.

The former retained firefighter has been a Harrogate Borough councillor on and off since 1999.

He has sat on Ripon City Council for much of that time, while he also represents Ripon South division at North Yorkshire County Council.

It's a range of responsibilities he admits can be "pretty intense", but was part of the reason he enjoyed public life.

Councillor Martin's grandfather and former Ripon mayor Wilfred Paranaby.

Councillor Martin's grandfather and former Ripon mayor Wilfred Paranaby.

"There's always somebody ringing up, it can be pretty intense at times, but getting the opportunity to help people solve something they perceive as a big problem is something I enjoy," he said.

Born on a council estate in Ripon, Coun Martin's current home overlooks where he was born a mere 100m away.

While he has travelled, he has always come back to the city.

And it's no wonder, with his family roots running deep in the area.

Coun Martin's grandfather Wilfred Parnaby was the mayor of Ripon from 1963-65, with his service also seeing him awarded a British Empire Medal and Freedom of the City of Ripon.

"When I was a young boy growing up, my grandfather was a big influence. I suppose he inspired me into getting involved," Coun Martin said.

"People in Ripon who are alive and who knew him and speak very highly of him."

Coun Martin's uncle David Parnaby was also the mayor of Ripon for two years, while Stuart himself held the position from 2004 to 2006, a period which including the Queen's visit to Ripon for the 400th anniversary of the city's royal charters.

"I don't think I'll be able to top it," he said.

"Apart from when our two daughters were born, it was probably the highlight of our lives."

Coun Martin will officially take office at a meeting of council on May 20.

Alongside him will be April, his wife of 35 years and a staunch community volunteer herself, a long-time district nurse and senior girl guides figures who has helped facilitate trips for local guides overseas.

Coun Martin's community work in Ripon has included helping set up the city's community house and Hazel House helped, while he also founded TASC Madagascar - a charity he founded to help impoverished communities after he first visited the country nearly 20 years ago.

"As soon as I stepped off the plane, I just fell in love with the place," he said.

"I felt like I was meant to be there."

Ahead of officially taking on the robes, Coun Martin said his ambition was to get around to as many communities in the district as possible, and implored anyone who wanted the mayor and mayoress to attend their event to contact the borough council.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter