Councillor James Hunt, who represents Blackfen & Lamorbey Ward, was elected the London Borough of Bexley’s 57th Mayor at the Council’s annual meeting on Wednesday 20 May.
James’ wife, Christine, will be the Mayoress. She is a theatre nurse at Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup but is currently re-deployed to the ICU at Darent Valley Hospital during the Covid19 crisis. James is the 81st person to hold the title of Mayor of Bexley, since the old Borough received its charter in 1937.
Born in 1979, James was born in to a community and military background. His Dad, Ken, was in the Territorial Army (Royal Signals) and his mum, Eileen, worked for the old GLC (Greater London Council). Although he has lived in the borough all his life, James was actually born in Woolwich, in what used to be known as the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies (formerly the Military Maternity Hospital). Being born into a service family left its mark on James and helped shape his values and passion for Bexley.
Blackfen has been his home since birth and his education was spent at Westwood School Infants, Juniors, Secondary, Sixth Form and Technology College. His parents had set up a Beaver Scout Colony in the area and it was obvious that James would join the Scouts. This remains an important interest in his life. He is Vice-Chairman of Bexley Scouts and Vice-President of the Greater London South East Scouts, along with that of the Air Training Corps, which he joined as a young teenager.
As he school years came to an end, James enrolled at Rose Bruford College, Sidcup. His love of the stage had been fed by trips to West End theatres and in 1999 he enrolled on a degree course at the college, studying Stage Management.
It was while at Rose Bruford that James began to realise his passion for good communication and working closely with other people. Following his successful degree, he was encouraged to seek work within the industry and he has developed and honed his skills through his role his work in event and stage management, touring productions and pantomime. It was in this field that he worked with British and International artists and stars, such as Jim Davidson, Anita Dobson, Joan Rivers, David Soul, Stephen Mulhern, Mr Blobby, Darren Day, Rusty Goffe and Christopher Biggins. The arts remain his passion today and he is now a Non-Executive Director of Bird College.
My ambition was to work in the theatre and tour the world and I was fortunate to work alongside some truly talented entertainers who remain, close friends, today.”
James met his wife Christine in 2007 and they married a year later. They have two children, age 5 and 8, both of whom go to school in the borough. This is a very busy time for Christine and her colleagues, but she is very much looking forward to her year as Mayoress.
Politics was not high on James’ agenda. He always wanted to serve the community in which he grew up and lived in, but it was a chance discussion with some standing Councillors in his ward that led him to stand in the 2006 local elections. He was successfully elected as a Councillor for the East Wickham Ward. James says: “I knew I had done the right thing. This was a wonderful opportunity to serve my community and hopefully make a positive difference to people’s lives.”
Since his election in 2006, he has been successfully re-elected three times and has served in a number of key roles, both at borough, Kent and London level. Serving as the Chairman of the borough’s ‘People’s’ Overview and Scrutiny Committee for four years and Chairman for eight years of the Education, Youth and Children’s Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee provided James with valuable experience, both of managing such a large committee and in witnessing at first hand the wide range of services provided by the council.
Bexley is a double gateway – both to London and the opportunities that provides, and to the Garden of England, which is Kent. We have a beautiful borough and I am excited at the prospect of representing all of our residents and to promoting Bexley and all it has to offer.”
James becomes Mayor in a challenging period for our borough and he is determined to meet and support as many residents as he can, even if that involves ‘virtual’ meetings for the time being. James says: “Becoming Mayor in this post Covid-19 period is an honour. Bexley, along with the rest of the UK and the world, is having to learn to adapt during what is probably the most challenging and difficult period since the Second World War.
This is a very important year for the borough and I am keen to help and assist where I can to get our small businesses, pubs and restaurants back on their feet. Our residents want to understand what their new normal will be and it is my ambition to be there with them, even if on occasions, it will be by virtual means. I plan to publish very quickly how residents can meet and talk to me, using technology they use every day, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I also want to meet using Zoom, MS Teams and Skype.”
During his year of office, James will be raising funds to support the activities of Bexley’s Looked After Children, as well as Bexley Crossroads and Bexley Carer’s Support, alongside other small charities that may request his support as the year progresses.
James has appointed Councillor Sue Gower MBE to be his Deputy Mayor and Sue’s husband, Darren Tobin, to be the Deputy Mayor’s Escort.