Members of the Council voted unanimously to elect Councillor Ashford to the office of Mayor at a statutory public Council meeting held on Wednesday May 9th 2012 in the Council Chamber of Douglas Town Hall.
Proposing the nomination Councillor Carol Malarkey said that Councillor Ashford had been interested in politics from an early age. Since being elected to represent Victoria Ward in 2008 he had demonstrated his extensive understanding of Standing Orders which would continue ‘to pay dividends’ in Council proceedings. In closing Councillor Malarkey praised Councillor Ashford for successfully balancing his full home life with three young children with that of his business and Council commitments, in particular his dedication to community and youth initiatives.
Seconding the nomination Council Leader Councillor David Christian JP referred to Councillor Ashford’s keen interest in local, national and international politics and his aspirations to see a regenerated Douglas. In closing Councillor Christian said the Mayor-elect and his mother, Mrs Sylvia Ashford, who was to serve as Mayoress, would be ‘first class ambassadors for this Council, this town and our Island.’
A vote of thanks was proposed to the outgoing Mayor by Councillor Christian who said Councillor Ritchie McNicholl had always carried out his civic duties with dignity and that together with his wife Mrs Julie McNicholl who had served as Mayoress, they had ‘commanded respect wherever they went.’ In closing he congratulated the former Mayor and Mayoress on ‘an outstanding job well done.’
Seconding Councillor Christian’s remarks Councillor Stephen Pitts referred to Councillor McNicholl’s enthusiasm for sharing his detailed knowledge of the history of Douglas Borough Council with visitors to the Mayor’s parlour and said it had been a pleasure to have worked with the outgoing Mayor and Mayoress during their two years in office.
In his reply Councillor McNicholl thanked his fellow Members and the officers of the Council for their support and commented that the Council was ‘doing a fantastic job’ that should serve as a role model to other local authorities in the Island. In closing he said of his year in office: ‘I enjoyed every second of it.’
At 34 Councillor Ashford becomes the second youngest Mayor of Douglas, Councillor Christian having been elected to the office in 1996 at the age of 31.
In the opening remarks of his installation address His Worship the Mayor thanked Members of the Council for allowing him to represent the Borough for the forthcoming municipal year. He continued: ‘I can honestly say it is the greatest honour I have ever had bestowed and one that will remain with me for the rest of my life.’
His Worship observed that during the lifetime of the Council just concluded the rate had remained more stable than at any time in the previous 20 years, town centre regeneration had begun and services to the ratepayers were being delivered more efficiently and cost effectively. He continued: ‘I passionately believe that the previous Council has left this Council, its successor, as close to a golden legacy as you ever can.’
His Worship spoke of the challenges ahead, principally to ensure value for money across all operations of the Council and for the latter, as a collective body, ‘to provide real leadership to the Borough’.
Returning to regeneration he said ‘…if the high street retail community is to survive in the online age it is incumbent on us as custodians of the capital to provide a modern, clean environment in which to trade.’
The Council had recently adopted a formal constitution that focused on accountability and transparency, prompting His Worship to comment it represented ‘a huge step forward’ and that ‘we as elected Members and the officers of this Council can now easily be held accountable by our employers, the ratepayers.’
Of the year ahead His Worship said: ‘I want to get out into the community speaking to people young and old about local government and why it matters’ and he went on to announce that the three charities to benefit from the Mayoress’s charity appeal during his year in office would be the Isle of Man hyberbaric medical facility, Dot’s Dream Foundation and the Manx Diabetic Society with funds raised going to its Pumps 4 Kids programme.
He paid tribute to the hard work of the outgoing Mayor and Mayoress and, in closing, said: ‘I have great optimism for this Council. I believe it will be a strong and hard-working Council. It is now up to every Member, including myself, to prove me right.’
Supporting His Worship will be his mother, Mrs Sylvia Ashford, as Mayoress. Councillor Sara Hackman will serve as Deputy Mayor and Councillor Carol Malarkey as Deputy Mayoress while Rev Les Lawrinson will continue as Mayor’s Chaplain.
The meeting also provided the opportunity for the Mayor of Ballymoney, Councillor Ian Stevenson who was unable to attend, to send his best wishes to the new Council, pay tribute to Councillor McNicholl and congratulate Councillor Ashford on his election to the office of Mayor of Douglas. Councillor Stevenson concluded his letter by expressing his wish to further the valuable friendships and twinning links between the two towns.