Get to know the new First Citizen in his own words:
It was an enormous privilege to be nominated by my fellow councillors to serve as Mayor of the City of Derby for the next municipal year.
It’s difficult to express how it feels to take responsibility for a position that has existed since 1638. My overwhelming feelings upon learning of my nomination were a little trepidation, enormous gratitude, but mostly pride. And while every Mayor has brought their own unique perspective to the role, I’m confident that I’m the first to have played in a thrash metal band!
I grew up in Derby and have chosen to raise my own family here too, so it’s a place exceptionally close to my heart. Like many people in Derby, my parents worked for Rolls-Royce and the Celanese. I was educated in the city’s comprehensive schools and have been a lifelong Derby County supporter, so I’d like to think my credentials for Mayor of this great city are pretty good.
In my twenties, I was fortunate enough to play in a rock band called The Beyond. Over the course of a decade, we were signed to the biggest record label in the world, released two albums and even supported bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Soundgarden and Living Colour.
Needless to say, it wasn’t a lifestyle that could last forever and in 1998 I embarked on a new chapter in my life. My wife and I applied to become foster carers and over seventeen years we have looked after 20 children, including six long-term placements.
I intend to make promoting fostering an integral part of my time as Mayor. Both in Derby and across the country there is a chronic shortage of placements, meaning that too many vulnerable young people are missing out on the stability a loving foster family are able to offer. This is something that needs to change and I will be taking every opportunity I can get to promote fostering and adoption in the city.
I’m also a keen artist, having attended Green Lane Art College in 1987. More recently, I’ve served as a trustee of the Derby Museums Trust. I’m a passionate advocate of the arts and I’m excited to support some of the city’s fantastic cultural organisations in the next year.
There are some great events coming up to showcase the arts in Derby, from Paul Cummins’ iconic Weeping Window at the Silk Mill to the return of the Darley Park Concert. I’m looking forward to enjoying those occasions with as many Derby people as possible.
My other passion has always been politics. While it’s somewhat unfashionable for politicians to admit that they’ve always wanted to be elected, it was something that had interested me since I was a teenager.
In fact, on the day after the band’s final performance I registered for a part-time politics degree with the Open University. In 2010, I was elected to Derby City Council and it has been a pleasure to represent the residents of Mackworth for the last seven years.
In that time, I’ve enjoyed serving as Chair of the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Board, as well as sitting on the Licensing Committee. But for the next year I’ll be stepping away from the political fray to fulfil the ceremonial responsibilities of the Mayor.
Nevertheless, I’ll still be taking time to promote what I consider to be the biggest political, social and economic story of them all – tackling climate change.
In the last year, we’ve been inundated with big news stories. But lost amongst the furore of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump was the alarming fact that 2016 was the hottest year on earth since records began.
What is more, eight out of twelve months set individual temperature records, while scientists believe that there is more carbon in the atmosphere than at any point in the last four million years. This is more than coincidental.
While it’s clear that real progress can only be made with concerted international action, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can all do to play our part. That’s why I intend to spend my year as Mayor promoting green initiatives across Derby and visiting schools to talk to children about the impact of climate change.
I have no doubt that the year ahead will be both challenging and rewarding in equal measure, but I promise to perform my duties with dedication, enthusiasm and impartiality. It’s a tremendous honour to represent the people of Derby – I’m looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming year.
New Mayor of Derby, Cllr John Whitby speaks ahead of the Mayor Making Ceremony: