The new leader of Brighton and Hove City Council has spoken of her love for the city of her birth as she was formally elected to the role.
Councillor Bella Sankey, who was first elected to represent Wish ward in a by-election last December, said that it was “humbling” and the “best moment” of her life at the “annual council” meeting.
Brighton and Hove’s longest-serving councillor, Les Hamilton, nominated Councillor Sankey to become leader yesterday (Thursday 25 May), citing her experience as a human rights and equalities lawyer.
He praised her work highlighting the plight of missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children which Councillor Hamilton said continued.
A retired teacher, Councillor Hamilton added that he might have taught her at Blatchington Mill School but “she survived the experience”.
In her acceptance speech, she paid tribute to her father, who was of Irish and Nigerian descent and who helped to build the maternity wing at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, where she was born in the early 1980s.
Councillor Sankey said: “My mixed heritage family found a safe and welcoming home here in this city where you can dare to be different. And as a mixed heritage woman, I know that diversity is strength.
“So, I’m proud to be elected as part of the most diverse set of councillors that our city has ever known.
“I love Brighton and Hove. And this city runs through me like a stick of rock. But whether you were born here or have moved here, Brighton is a place to fall in love with – and no one can deny how special this place is.
“We are a big-hearted city with a pioneering history and a global reputation for creativity, excellence, compassion, fairness and fun.”
She pledged to serve every resident regardless of their vote and promised to be “available, accessible and visible”.
Councillor Sankey paid tribute to her ward predecessor, the late Conservative councillor and former mayor Garry Peltzer Dunn, who died suddenly last year.
And she paid tribute to the former Labour councillor Brian Fitch, another former mayor, who died this month.
She said: “I’m aware that I stand here on the shoulders of many giants, who over centuries, both inside and outside of this chamber, have known this city, loved this city and transformed this city and who will continue to inspire us all as we take this city forward.
“I also want to put on record my sincere thanks to the open-hearted and community-minded residents of Wish Ward, Hove, who have put their faith and confidence in me – twice – in six months.”
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