Profile of North Walsham's new mayor
LONDON-born Brian Wexler, North Walsham's new mayor, has experienced the highs and lows of rural life since moving to north Norfolk 38 years ago.Mr Wexler, 71, came to the county with his young family in search of the Good Life - and found it.
LONDON-born Brian Wexler, North Walsham's new mayor, has experienced the highs and lows of rural life since moving to north Norfolk 38 years ago.
Mr Wexler, 71, came to the county with his young family in search of the Good Life - and found it. But he also knows first-hand the struggles faced by town traders after eight years of running the former Saffron Gift Shop on Market Street, until his retirement in 2006.
And he sees both North Walsham's attractions and its economic difficulties as areas worth highlighting during his mayoral year.
“I don't think we do enough to promote the town as a tourist destination,” said Mr Wexler, of Market Place Mews. “It's got a fantastic history with the peasants' rebellion and its connections with Nelson - one of the most famous men this country has ever produced.”
Through the town council, he is pushing for brown tourist signs to go up on main roads around the area to draw in visitors.
And he would like to see all, or part, of the Nelson Building, at Paston College, converted into a town museum when the college moves to a planned new home off the Norwich Road.
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As a trustee of the newly-formed North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust, Mr Wexler is also excited at its plans to restore the waterway for leisure use.
He said: “There are grants out there for exactly this sort of project and now we can apply for them. This time it looks like it's really going to happen and it will definitely up the image of North Walsham because it would connect us to the Broads.”
Mr Wexler thinks the town could do more to entice new employers by stressing the quality of life and lower wages in the area, factors which
could compensate for the poor road infrastructure in some cases.
Industries prepared to handle
orders smaller than giant competitors in China would accept could also do well, he said.
A qualified engineer, Mr Wexler was the director of a company which owned service stations around London from 1965-1970 when he and his former wife Marian decided to uproot and take their four young children to live in the country.
“It was a constant headache. I
worked until late and never saw the kids,” he said. “One of our garages was targeted twice by the IRA and they even blew up the safe there once.”
He bought up a model engineers' lathe-making business and ran it from the family's new North Walsham home, on Bacton Road, where they kept chickens, ducks and made yoghurt from their goats' milk in the eight-and-a-half acre grounds.
He has been a North Walsham town councillor since 2002 and is a long-standing member of the town's Rotary club.
Mr Wexler said he felt nervous about the prospects for small businesses in the town, with the recent closures of Head Cook and Bottlewasher and Dial-a-Part.
Competition from the internet and the economic downturn were making trading conditions ever tougher, he said.
“We have got to encourage people to shop locally and to realise that
we've often got what they want right here in North Walsham instead of spending money on petrol and parking to buy it in Norwich. If people don't think of trying to
find things here and supporting
local businesses, then we will lose them,” he added.