Outgoing Sawbridgeworth mayor Annelise Furnace hails 'amazing' response to Covid-19 pandemic
A strange year in office saw the mayor of Sawbridgeworth bang the gavel at a council meeting for the last – and first – time on Monday (May 24).
Cllr Annelise Furnace told the Indie a year which began with her putting the chains of office on herself last May had gone so quickly.
With town council meetings being held online and the big civic and town events cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, fundraising opportunities for the mayor’s chosen charities were limited.
But some innovative projects saw her raise £3,500 to be shared between Essex and Herts Air Ambulance and 1st Sawbridgeworth Scouts.
Although it had been a different mayoral year, Cllr Furnace revealed she believed she had seen a side of the town that may not have otherwise been evident. “I’ve seen how connected, supportive and communal our town is,” she said.
Many of her engagements had been held online, with a session dancing with Cubs a highlight, along with the response from the community to the pandemic.
“I’ve learned a lot about our voluntary groups, schools and businesses, and the way the town rallied has been quite amazing.”
Cllr Furnace’s theme for the year was building bridges between generations, communities and countries, and she believes that was evident throughout the year.
Besides Covid providing a perfect example of how people are connected with residents, looking out for their neighbours from the first lockdown, she also tapped into the town twinning association.
“I think the town twinning and links with schools is incredibly important. We need to work at making sure we understand our neighbours because we have so much in common.”
After expressing her “deepest sympathies” for those who lost loved ones over the past year, Cllr Furnace told Monday’s annual general meeting of the town council in her valedictory address there was “light at the end of the tunnel”.
She added: “As we reawaken and move into much better times, I believe we are now equipped with greater resilience, greater imagination and a far greater appreciation of what we have right here on our doorstep, and which we perhaps took for granted before.”
Cllr Greg Rattey was appointed new mayor by town councillors. He paid tribute to Cllr Furnace, who he said had performed the role with “dignity and grace”. He added: “You literally had to Zoom yourself around the town!”
In accepting the role, he revealed his chosen charities as Men’s Health Forum, a charity supporting men with depression and other mental illnesses, and the Hailey Centre, at Sayesbury Manor, Bell Street.
Cllr Rattey said he wanted his theme to be “positivity about our town”. He added: “For the shop traders and businesses in this town I have the utmost respect for you... and I simply want to say 'I’ve got your back'.”