What did you do before you became Mayor of Guildford?
I came from Cardiff originally and lived on a council estate. When I left school, I went from job to job - I seem to remember 12 different jobs, but couldn’t find the right fit, so I joined the Army and ended up serving 22 years, primarily in the Logistics Corps. I served in places like Greece, Turkey, and Norway. I left the Army in 1986, I settled in Aldershot where I was approached the following year to stand for local government in Rushmore - Bellevue ward. During this time, I had various jobs in security, distribution (including being head of distribution for Wax Lyrical, who were bought by Yankee Candle) and air freight forwarding.
After retiring at 63, we moved to Chilworth and I became Parish Councillor for Shalford, as well as carrying out volunteer work for the Philip Green Memorial Trust, helping raise £2 million during my time there.
How did you become Mayor?
I was elected as a member of Guildford Borough Council in 2015. I was a ward Councillor and served on various committees. In November the following year, I was asked if I would put my name forward to become Mayor of Guildford and if I’m honest, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. The role is a huge commitment so it took me a while to consider. But eventually, I put my name forward and was elected to stand as Deputy Mayor and now Mayor. It’s very humbling to be elected by my peers and is the greatest honour to have been bestowed on me.
What is a typical day/week like as the Mayor of Guildford?
It starts jolly early and ends jolly late! Today, for example, I was at Lanesborough School for the Nativity, then I gave an address at a lunch, then it was off to Send to watch Jack and the Beanstalk. I can have three to five engagements each day and that includes weekends and Bank Holidays! On Christmas Day I’ll be at the emergency department at the Royal Surrey County Hospital and visiting a homeless shelter.
What’s the best thing about being Mayor?
Meeting people and getting involved with people who do good. I didn't realise how many fantastic people there are in Guildford, who do so many lovely things. There are 230 registered charities in Guildford and if you attend their events and they get a bit of coverage because of that, then it’s so worthwhile, even if they just pick up one follower.
Are there any particular causes you support?
Being Mayor gave me the opportunity to help set up the Guildford Young Carers Fund in June 2018, something I never thought could have happened. There are over 2,000 young carers in Guildford alone and Surrey has the largest number of volunteers of any county in the country. The youngest carer I’ve met was five years old, looking after his mother, and the youngest full-time carer was just six.
We have lots of support from local organisations. George Abbot School has a young carers club that meets once per month with a mentor and they meet to talk and support each other. The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre hosted an event for young carers this year and has given me 80 tickets to give to young carers to go to their panto. The Onslow family are also huge supporters and have given us Clandon Park for a fun day for young carers and their families.
If I’m going to be working to raise funds, it has to be for Guildford but the model I have set up can be used in any part of the country. It’s so humbling talking to these children and if it makes a difference, even to just one child, then that would be amazing.
What would you like to see for the future of Guildford?
Guildford is a market town and long may it continue as this, but I’d like to see the High Street become even more vibrant. I’d also be keen to see more community spirit – like there is in the surrounding villages.
What do you like to do in your personal time?
I have two grandchildren aged 21 and 17 so I love hearing what they’re up to. My grandson is getting into script writing and has won the Glastonbury Short Film Festival award for script writing.
I also enjoy beach fishing. I haven’t been for a while due to various commitments but I usually head to somewhere on the South Coast, like The Witterings. My other passion is rugby and, of course, I follow Guildford Rugby Club.
Mayor of Guildford, Mike Parsons with Alex Vinall, MD of Air Social in the Carroll Suite at The County Club. To find out more about our meeting rooms, click here.
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