OKEHAMPTON Town Council chose the town’s new mayor at an official ceremony at the town hall on Wednesday last week, writes Sarah Pitt.

Outgoing mayor Councillor Jan Goffey handed over to new mayor Councillor Janet Carpenter, with both women leaving the council chamber to exchange the splendid mayoral robes.

Cllr Carpenter, who has served on the town council for three years, said ‘no one was more surprised’ than she was to be elected by her fellow councillors.

She is a familiar face in the town, having worked at the Red Lion Bazaar in the town centre for 21 years and been involved with the Dartmoor Heritage Railway at Meldon before that.

Councillor Val Cushing, seconding the proposal that she be elected, praised Cllr Carpenter’s ‘infectious sense of humour’ and other qualities which would ‘stand her in good stead as mayor’.

Councillor Julie Yelland was elected as deputy mayor, taking over from Councillor Dr Michael Ireland, and the new mayor chose Councillor Christine Marsh to be her mayoress, her official consort for her year in office.

Cllr Goffey has been mayor of the town for two years, during which time she has played a key role in fighting to maintain services at the hospital in Okehampton – a battle she pledged to continue in her speech standing down as mayor.

After congratulating Cllr Carpenter, Cllr Goffey said: ‘Being mayor is a bit like going on holiday. It seems like ages at the time and then whoosh! It’s all over and life returns to a semblance of normality. Which will be something of a relief as over the past two years I have completed over 350 engagements, which doesn’t include town council meetings, Okehampton United Charities meetings or the occasional West Devon Borough Council meeting. Thank goodness I was technically retired!’

She thanked all the people who had supported her through her two years as mayor, from councillors and council staff to mace bearers Basil Jones and David Hollinshead, her chaplain Canon Tim Newcombe, mayor’s cadet Charlie Thompson and her consort, her partner Lyn Evans.

She also presented mayor’s awards to Mike Harding and Louis Anderson, who put up the town’s Christmas lights on behalf of the Chamber of Trade each year, and to Roger and Jenny Pedrick, for their service to the community over more than 50 years.

The retiring mayor made another presentation, a cheque for £700, to Oliver Watts of FORCE cancer charity, raised from her recent fundraising dinner, by way of thanks to the charity that is now offering chemotherapy to local residents at Okehampton Hospital.

Handing over to her successor, Cllr Goffey concluded: ‘Councillor Carpenter, please accept the key to the safe to enable you to collect the mayoral chain, the very important mayoral car park permit and a large wooden spoon to keep the councillors on their toes.’

The new mayor chose Corporal Freya Andrew, 15, of the town’s army cadet squadron, to be the mayor’s cadet for the year ahead, and the Rev Liz Singleton of Okehampton Methodist Church to be mayor’s chaplain.