Retiring Sawbridgeworth town clerk Richard Bowran praised as champion of community transport
For Richard Bowran, Sawbridgeworth Town Council proved to be a perfect fit after he decided to change career path and get into “clerking”.
His background was in engineering and finance. Among the roles he had performed was finance director for the Port of Tilbury.
But he craved a change. “When the dot.com bubble burst 20-odd years ago it was time to try something else,” said Richard. A headhunter contact pointed him towards town clerking.
After a short stint at Letchworth Garden City, where he helped to establish the council, the town clerk role came up at Sawbridgeworth – and the traditional nature of the council appealed to Richard.
“Sawbridgeworth is interesting from a town clerk’s point of view,” he said. “It’s large enough to make an impact but small enough to be flexible and do things.”
Among the achievements he is most proud of is the setting up of the Sawbobus community transport scheme in November 2009.
“I’ve managed to acquire vehicles at no cost to the council. We provide about 20,000 passenger journeys a year and the service brings people into the town.”
Richard’s pride in launching Sawbobus was echoed by mayor Cllr Annelise Furnace at the October town council meeting when he announced his retirement. She told him: “You’ve been a champion and a trailblazer for community transport.”
Cllr Furnace also paid tribute to his skill at innovating. “You’ve responded to the community’s needs in ways that have not been tried before.”
Former town and district councillor, ex-deputy chairman of Hertfordshire County Council and Richard’s first mayor, Roger Beeching, said the outgoing clerk had “developed the town council magnificently”.
He added: “He's done so well with the playgrounds, cemetery, allotments and Sawbobus – he's been orchestrating things fantastically. The councillors and residents of Sawbridgeworth owe him a great debt of gratitude. He'll be a hard act to follow.”
Former town councillor and ex-mayor Barry Hodges said that from the start he was impressed with Richard’s “knowledge, wisdom and enthusiasm”.
Among Richard’s achievements Barry mentioned were hosting a Herts At War exhibition, including a trench mock-up, at the civic centre, and he also “facilitated a way to refurbish the town’s war memorial” in 2018.
“I remember one particular battle Richard had with East Herts Council over the public toilets in Bell Street, which were in a sorry state,” said Barry. “Richard wanted to take over ownership and run them properly and battled for six years to wrench control of the conveniences for the people of Sawbridgeworth.”
Barry added: “Never happy to be standing still, even on the eve of his retirement Richard was continuing to develop Town Green as a public space.”
Richard paid tribute to his partner Jo Sargant, with whom he lives in Great Dunmow and who worked with him at Sayesbury Manor as town projects manager.
“Jo's been with me for nine years and she's been involved with town affairs for 25 years. One thing people may not recognise is the value the two of us have brought to the town,” he said.
At 72, Richard could be forgiven for putting his feet up and spending more time on his newly acquired boat moored on the Norfolk Broads. But he is having none of it, registering as a locum, with work already lined up in north Herts.
His last official day with the council was on November 20, although technically he will be town clerk until December 31.
Simon Crocker, who comes to the town from Cambridgeshire, takes over as clerk from January 4.