'Unbelievable' surprise for dedicated former councillor
- Credit: Supplied by Patrick Allen
A dedicated councillor who fought hard for her community for more than a decade was honoured on Tuesday at a surprise gift-giving presentation.
Dr Marie Strong, who was elected to represent Wells-next-the-Sea and its surrounding villages on the county council in 2009, decided to step down at the election in May of this year.
At the event at Langham Dome, Dr Strong was presented with a pair of teak garden chairs and matching table - purchased by the parish council chairs and clerks of her division.
“It was just unbelievable,” said Dr Strong, who had no idea about the event before her arrival.
As a councillor, Dr Strong focused on several key campaign pledges, including flood sirens on the coast and better broadband in the area.
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She recalled going to parliament to see Eric Pickles, then-secretary of state for communities, to press him on better broadband at a breakfast meeting.
“I put my hand up and said: ‘I gather you’re about to release money [for improved broadband].' I pointed to the map and said: 'This is my division, and this is my county and we need it more than any of these others.'
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“Bless his heart. He looked down and said ‘Oh, Wells-next-the-Sea, I’ve been there, bird-watching'. Well, I was home and dry wasn’t I?”
Langham parish councillor Patrick Allen said: “She rarely missed a parish council meeting of her 20 parishes in the division, often travelling between two meetings in one evening.”
The former Liberal Democrat councillor, who this year allowed her party membership to lapse - saying she was never especially motivated by party politics - has plenty to catch up on in retirement.
“In the dining room, there’s a narrow piece of fabric hanging from the curtain rail. I put that up 13 years ago to decide on the length of the curtain - and the piece is still hanging up,” she said.
Dr Strong, who is a doctor of philosophy, will also continue her work with her husband Mike on the Wells Flood Action Plan group, as well as working on some academic and creative writing.
In a message to her community, she said: “It’s been an absolute privilege and delight to work with the people of my division.”