Cllr Sharon Massey, who represents Danson Park Ward, became the London Borough of Bexley's 50th Mayor at the Council's annual meeting on Wednesday 22 May.
Her Consort will be her husband, Cllr Don Massey, who works in the city and is also the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Leisure. Sharon is the 74th person to hold the title of Mayor of Bexley, since the old Borough received its charter in 1937.
Born in neighbouring Bromley in 1966, Sharon moved to Bexley when she was five years old. Living only a stone's throw from the current Civic Offices, in Latham Road, Bexleyheath, Sharon attended Gravel Hill Primary School.
Sharon talks warmly about how the Council offered her an assisted scholarship at Blackheath High School. She says: "I was so lucky to be supported by Bexley Council when I was only 11 years old and that wonderful opportunity has remained with me throughout my life. I will forever be grateful for the education opportunities that gave me."
In fact, it is family, education and politics that have formed the basis of Sharon's life to date. Leaving school at 16, Sharon headed for the City - NatWest Bank at Bishopsgate to be precise, in a clerical role, but it was only a few short years before management opportunities were presented and at 23 years old, she was appointed to the management team as a financial adviser.
Around that time Sharon met her husband to be, Don, at an office gathering and by 1993, they were married at the former Sidcup Register Office on the day before it closed and moved to its present home at Manor House, Sidcup. It was in 1994 that Sharon left the City life on maternity leave and what she did not realise at that time was that her career in banking was already in the past.
Sharon and Don's first daughter, Elizabeth (Beth), who is now studying History and Politics, was born later that year and she was joined in 1999 by her sister Victoria, (Tori). For a while, the family life beckoned, but Sharon clearly remembers a conversation back in the early 90s when frustrated at political events in the UK, she decided to stand with her brother Gareth Johnson, as a local Conservative Councillor in what was then the 'Danson' Ward.
Although not successful then, the change of government in 1997 once again meant that Sharon felt the need to follow her convictions and in 1998 Sharon and Gareth successfully fought and were elected as Councillors in the Christchurch Ward, Bexleyheath.
Boundary changes within the Borough in 2002 meant that Sharon became a Councillor for Danson Park Ward, a role she holds to this day. Later, her brother Gareth was to decide that national politics was his way forward and in 2010 he became the MP for Dartford. Sharon actually stood for Parliament herself in 2001 in the Eltham constituency, challenging the standing MP, Clive Efford. Although Sharon was not successful in her bid, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learnt much that would stand her in good stead throughout her political career.
Sharon almost apologises when she talks about her reasons for entering politics as she feels that they might be considered 'corny', but she simply wanted to help make her community a great place where people could be proud to raise their family. She has been a Councillor for 15 years and remembers almost everyone who she has met and tried to help during that time.
Sharon says: "When a resident calls you and they are simply at the end of their tether, I have a duty to do my best for them. That might include simply listening as a sounding board, but often I am able to signpost or guide them in the direction to resolve their concern or issue. That is the best part of my job as a Councillor."
With her Ward colleagues, Linda Bailey and John Waters, she meets residents at monthly surgeries and she is particularly interested in Health and Social Care issues within the Borough. Sharon was Bexley's Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care (Adult Social Care) from 2006 to 2009 and this interest has been furthered by her current job teaching the subject to students at Northfleet Girls School. Sharon graduated with a BA Hons in Social Care from Greenwich University in 2010 and after passing her teaching qualification (PGCE) in 2011, she gained employment at NEWTEC, a subsidiary of Newham College, where she had been previously on placement. This was followed by the offer of the role at Northfleet Girls School. Sharon has decided to place her career on hold for a year, while she carries out the Mayoral role. Sharon says: "I am very much looking forward to getting out into our community in Bexley and meeting everyone. I feel excited, thrilled, flattered and privileged to receive the honour of becoming our Mayor. I have lived in many parts of our Borough; North Cray, Bexleyheath, Northumberland Heath and now Bexley Village and I feel that I belong here. I am proud of living in Bexley and I want others to feel the same."
Primarily, in spite of her job as a teacher and her role as a Councillor, Sharon is a typically family orientated mum. She plays a full and active part in Parent-Teachers Association events at schools within the Borough, invigilates at exams at Beth's former school and is of course the 'mum taxi', but above all she talks warmly about her family life: "My heart and roots are in my home with my family, although I know and appreciate that will definitely have to take a back seat for the next 12 months."
Sharon has a very personal reason to support her chosen charities for 2013/4, the Diabetic Paediatrics Unit at Queen Mary's Hospital Sidcup and Carers Support (Bexley). Her daughter Tori, who is currently a pupil at Townley Grammar School, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2007 and the whole family continues to learn how life changes when that illness has been diagnosed in someone you love and care for. Sharon and Don have been clearly impressed and moved by the work undertaken by the Diabetic Paediatrics Unit at Sidcup and their aim is to raise the profile and raise much needed funds to support the children in their care. Sharon is also aware of the role of Carers within our community. She says: "Almost every family has to care for someone at some point in their lives and we need to support and help some of the most vulnerable people in our Borough. Carers Support Bexley is a wonderful organisation, as are many others in Bexley and we will work hard for them and the Diabetic Paediatrics Unit this year." For details of fundraising events during the year, please see the pdf under related downloads.
Sharon has appointed Cllr Geraldene Lucia-Hennis to be her Deputy Mayor and Mr Peter Lucia-Hennis, her husband, to be the Deputy Mayor's Consort. The Mayor has appointed The Reverend Ann Uphill, Vicar at All Saints Foots Cray and St James North Cray as her Chaplain.