There's no mistaking how Alison Reynolds feels about being made Mayor of Faversham.
The grandmother-of-four, who celebrated her 70th birthday earlier this month, can barely contain her joy and pride. Chuffed doesn't begin to cover it.
“I'm elated!” she admits. “Everone's been brilliant. It's been phenomenal. People have been really pleased and that's given me confidence because at first I thought 'I'm not sure I can do that!'”
Well-known and well-liked in the town, Alison is a familiar, friendly face and Faversham through and through. As a local gym coach, she created the Jubilee Centre and ran it successfully for 15 years. She was awarded the British Empire Medal last year for services to community sport. But she had never thought of running for council until last October when now-retired Lib Dem Mike Henderson asked her to stand.
“I wasn't even expecting to be elected as a councillor and then it all happened!” she says. After the sitting Conservative town council was swept away in May's local election, the new Lib Dem-led administration voted unanimously to make Alison Mayor.
Still mildly shocked but brimming with enthusiasm, she has spent her first few weeks settling into her new role, taking stock and rediscovering the town where she grew up, went to school and raised her family.
“At the moment I'm finding out what's happening in Faversham and there is a lot happening and most of it is needing added support,” she says. “There are so many good things going on. I want to support them all. I think there has been a real smile on people's faces and a sense of 'we've come up a little way'. We are starting a new chapter completely.”
Alison has visited initiatives such as the Umbrella Centre and the Millfield Allotments and strongly supports plans for a community building for Priory Ward residents on land at Barnfield Road.
She's also 100 percent behind the campaign for an opening creek bridge.
“I want to see that in my lifetime and I'm 70!” she says. “I want it done, finished. I've seen it working properly with the barges coming up the creek when my grandfather worked down there and get it all going would be really good for Faversham.'
The new mayor also wants to see the Preston Schoolroom renovated and kept in use and would like better facilities and opportunities provided for teenagers in the town.
“My focus is 12-17 years olds,” she says. “I love the little ones but we have got things in place for them now. This town is brilliant but it lacks things for 12-17 year olds, especially the ones that don't have the parents supporting them or the finances to do things. They want to socialise and you just feel for them. They got into big trouble the other week going into the children's play area on the rec. But if I had been there I'd have just said to them: 'Look, clearly this isn't the place for you but what is it you would like?'
“What can be done for them? We haven't done anything, have we? I think they want some picnic benches and tables and a nice big sailcloth above where they can congregate.
Simple, really. And the graffiti artists. What a talent some of them have got! Why are we not accommodating it rather than telling them off? Why not put some boarding in the recreation ground?” says Alison. “Where is there for them? We had a really good youth centre in South Road. People of my generation all met our other halves there. I don't think we paid anything much. Kent County Council ran it. There was a billiard room, a table tennis room. We all met there.”
It's plain from talking with Alison even for a short time that her heart is in the right place, she gets things done and she genuinely cares about her home town and its people. What more can anyone ask from a new mayor? She even makes a really nice cup of tea. Faversham has gained not just a new mayor but also a sort of Auntie-in-Chief.
The Faversham Eye wishes Alison the best of luck for her year as Mayor. Let's leave her with the last word:
“Faversham is a really caring community and always has been and we've made things happen. Our swimming pool, for instance. I was one of the children collecting coins to build it!” Alison says. “You can't fault the community spirit here. It's amazing!”