Looking back on two “incredible” years as Mayor of Truro
On 15 May Councillor Steven Webb will hand back his civic robes and chain as he steps down as Mayor of Truro after serving a historic two consecutive years in office.
Steven had been a member of the City Council for just four years when, in 2021, he was elected as Mayor of the city he has loved since coming to Truro as a nine-year-old.
Admitting he had no idea of how a local authority worked when he first joined the Council, he says he had the same “imposter syndrome” feeling when he was elected as the Mayor.
“You look at the huge figures of the previous mayors whose names are in plaques on buildings around the city and suddenly realise that you are in that role now. I spent the first six months looking for a manual on how to be a mayor – only to find there wasn’t’ one and I had to work it out for myself”.
And work it out he did – quickly deciding his motto would be to ensure that no-one was left out and that he would work with others to deliver effective solutions to problems which met the needs of the whole community rather than worry about always being right, taking the credit for things and getting re -elected.
Stepping down has provided an opportunity for Steven to look back at his time as Mayor and reflect on the opportunities and challenges he has faced.
One of his first challenges was chairing his first meeting of the full Council – something he was dreading and which has remained one of his least enjoyable tasks.
“A good chairperson makes it look so easy” he said. “My first full Council meeting included a discussion about the Healthy Streets proposals which not everyone supported so it was a real baptism of fire”
“People says I am always very calm when I chair meetings – that is certainly not how I feel. In my head I am a terrified seven-year-old who is waiting to be found out and I will definitely not miss chairing full Council!”.
There are, however, many, many things Steven will miss about being Mayor and many, many positive things he is very proud that the City Council has achieved during his term of office.
These include specific achievements, such as progressing the regeneration of Pydar Street and the development of the Town Deal projects, organising Warm Welcome events to help people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis; working with partners to deliver more events and activities in the city, expanding the library service, finalising the revised Truro and Kenwyn Neighbourhood Development Plan and providing a new Anti Social Behaviour Officer for the city.
One of his main aims when entering office was to work more closely with organisations such as Cornwall Council and the BID to ensure that the City Council is involved in decisions taken by these organisations which affect the City and its residents. He has certainly achieved this, building positive relationships with partners which ensures that the Coty Council now has a real “voice at the table” when key decisions are made.
“These are not my achievements” he said. “It has always been a real team effort –councillors, City Council staff, partners, businesses and the local community working together to benefit everyone.”
There have been some difficult decisions to take. “My approach has always been to tell people the truth – to say things like they are rather than trying to spin things. If you tell the truth and work to bring people together then you can overcome most challenges”.
Traditionally the role of Mayor means stepping back from party politics, being impartial when chairing debates and making decisions, and then carrying out the will of the Council.. While Steven is clear that this is liberating, enabling the person to focus on doing what is right and effective to deliver for the whole city rather than following a particular political line, it can sometimes mean that a Council decision is at odds with a Mayor’s personal views.
One example is the recent debate on having a Mayor for Cornwall. “I felt that having a Mayor to provide a single, strong voice for Cornwall would be a good thing “ said Steven. “The Council voted to oppose the proposal which meant that I was not able to speak in favour of the idea. Stepping down as Mayor will enable me to speak more freely about issues I feel strongly about”.
Steven’s time as Mayor has seen some significant national events, such as the Queen’s Jubilee, her funeral and the proclamation and coronation of the new King. As the city’s civic leader Steven played a key role in all these historic moments. “It was an incredible honour to be asked to read the proclamation “ he said. “As the last proclamation was made in 1952, none of the people taking part in this event had done it before and so it was a real first for everyone in the country – not just me! .
“It is always a privilege to represent the city at civic events, large and small, and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me during the past two years. I am particularly grateful to my daughter Kember who has been a fantastic Mayoress”.
Other things he has enjoyed have been meeting with local charities and voluntary groups, such as Truro Homeless Action Group, St Petroc’s and Truro Foodbank, and talking to residents..
“Volunteers are the people who keep our city going “ he said. “It is usually the same few people involved in everything – they are fantastic and without them Truro would grind to a halt. It is because of the hard work and commitment of volunteers – not politicians – that many positive things happen.”
Steven is very proud of Truro City Council staff who, he says, have been through a lot in the past few years and had remained steadfast and always delivered for the city.
“From the teams responsible for maintaining our parks, gardens and cemeteries and providing the amazing hanging baskets, to the staff supporting local communities, running the library and organising events and working “behind the scenes” to keep the Council running – all led by our fantastic Clerk – they are an incredible group of people who I have enjoyed working with.
“The staff are vital to the success of the city – if all the councillors disappeared tomorrow Truro would carry on. If the staff disappeared, many things we all take for granted just would not happen.”
So what about the future?
While he will inevitably miss being at the decision of decision making, Steven is looking forward to narrowing down” and “focusing on the things he wants to achieve.
“I have always tried to work with everyone to get things done and I will not stop doing that in the future” he said. “I am very proud that the City Council now has a strong voice in shaping decisions which affect Truro, its residents and businesses.
“Truro has much to be proud of and to look forward to and it is time for our city to take pride in its accomplishments and growth. I will be working closely with councillors and partners to achieve this”.