Brighton and Hove has a new mayor with the election of Mo Marsh this afternoon (Thursday 18 May) by her fellow councillors.
The 69-year-old Labour councillor for Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will put aside party politics for the coming year as she becomes the city’s first citizen.
She was elected at the annual meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council at Brighton Town Hall with Conservative councillor Dee Simson elected deputy mayor.
The outgoing mayor Pete West gave an emotional speech about his year in office and thanked his partner Geraldine Keenan and his family and all those who had helped him.
Like previous mayors, he said that he thought that he knew the city but learnt so much about the incredible place and people over the past 12 months.
Councillor Anne Meadows said: “It is my pleasure to propose Mo Marsh to be the next mayor for the city.
“Mo moved from her native Leicester to Brighton in the sixties. Reality struck when she arrived and saw the Basil Spence designed buildings and thought she was in heaven. Reasonable people might think this said more about Leicester than Brighton.
“Mo has a passion for amateur dramatics so loves the cultural side of our city.”
This would, she said, be handy for the overacting and performances we have at our full council meetings.
Councillor Meadows said: “I’ve found her to be supportive, engaging and friendly.”
She is “eager to please and happy to help” – especially with the offer of cake – and praised “her willingness to serve, her outgoing personality and her love of the city”.
Council leader Councillor Warren Morgan said: “It is the highest honour this council can bestow on one of its members.”
On taking office Councillor Marsh said: “For a small person it’s a big moment or ‘Mo-ment’!”
She started by acknowledging the work of Brighton and Hove City Council staff for the benefit of the community in taxing times.
She paid tribute to her predecessor and said: “Pete, you’ve set the bar incredibly high.”
She added: “On Sunday I will turn 70 which feels like quite a landmark. To have both of these things happening in the same week, feels amazing and Mo-mentous!”
The programme for the mayor-making at Brighton Town Hall said: “Mo has been a councillor since 1995.
“She balances her civic life, passionately representing the residents of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, with her family life, spending time with her daughter and grandchildren and – in the little spare time she has – indulging her love of the arts and culture.
“Mo was born in Leicester, the only child of a London Irish mother and Jewish father, and lived there until she left for the University of Sussex in 1965. The university was in its infancy.
“On arriving at Falmer she was bewitched by the Basil Spence buildings and fell in love with Brighton and Hove which soon became her adopted home.
“She studied for a BA and PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education). And she met and married the father of her daughter, who was raised and educated in the city.
“Mo enjoyed a busy professional career in education, working as a teacher, administrator and examiner. She also served as a school governor.
“She spent a year in Michigan, USA, studying for an MA. And she went on to earn diplomas in teaching English as a foreign language, counselling and career guidance at the University of Brighton.
“First elected to Brighton Borough Council in Marine Ward in 1995, she continued to represent the ward after the merger with Hove created the unitary authority in 1997.
“In the early years of the new joint authority Mo brought her professional background into her political life as a member of the Education Committee.
“She also began her work in health, chairing the Community Health Council, and serving as a non-executive director for eight years at the South Downs Health Trust.
“Mo has had a distinguished career in local government and has represented her current ward, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, since 2007.
“She has continued to work tenaciously for her constituents, taking up their cases and speaking on their behalf.
“She has taken on responsibilities within the council and has served on a number of external trusts and bodies in the city.
“Mo has been a member of various committees, dealing with community safety, scrutiny and health as well as children and young people. She regularly sits on and chairs licensing panels and chaired the Licensing Committee in 2015.
“During her mayoral term Mo is very much looking forward to meeting the residents, communities and volunteers of the open and welcoming city that she fell in love with.
“In particular she is delighted to be working with her five chosen mayoral charities – Albion in the Community, the Martlets Hospice, Rise, the Clock Tower Sanctuary and the Sussex Heart Charity – as well as sampling the offers of cakes generously provided for the mayor at events throughout the year.
“Mo feels immensely privileged and honoured to be chosen to represent the people of the city she holds so dear in this highest office of mayor.
“She sees it as the icing on the cake – her 70th birthday cake – as she celebrates over 50 years in Brighton and Hove.”