BRACKNELL FOREST’S new mayor has been chosen in a first-of-its-kind virtual ceremony.

Councillor Ash Merry, who served as deputy mayor for the past year, will now take the top job replacing outgoing mayor councillor Pauline McKenzie.

A new mayor is chosen yearly at the council’s annual meeting, where the incumbent mayor makes way for a new ‘first citizen’ in a small ceremony.

This year, the pass-over took place online because coronavirus lockdown rules meant councillors could not come together at Time Square.

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Councillor Merry said: “It is a great honour to accept and wear this badge on behalf of my councillor colleagues who represent the wards and residents in this very special borough of Bracknell Forest which has proudly been my home for 26 years.”

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Speaking about the challenges coronavirus poses, she continued: “I do not underestimate the challenges ahead. We will need to embrace change, forego some of the freedoms we have perhaps taken for granted, and in some cases, say goodbye to people we know and care about.

“You can’t have rainbows without the rain and never before have these seven words been more poignant and appropriate.

“The rainbows are the key workers and the residents young and not-so-young across the borough who are every day doing their bit to make a difference where it is most needed.

“That is where the civic team needs your help. One of the biggest pleasures of the mayoral role is the chance to say thank you to those who exemplify neighbourliness and others before self.

“Individuals who don’t see themselves as special but are truly doing extraordinary things locally.”

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Councillor Merry encouraged residents to nominate their own heroes for recognition by getting in touch on the Bracknell Forest Council website.

She closed her acceptance speech by citing Winston Churchill’s ‘blood, toil, sweat and tears’ speech before adding: “We will come through this with our hair long and with our community’s sense of neighbourliness even stronger.”

Outgoing mayor Pauline McKenzie announced she had raised £19,400 for Sandhurst Day Centre in her year in office.

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Before handing over the reins to Cllr Merry, she said: “I have had the most amazing year.

“Thank you to everyone for letting me into your lives for one brief moment.

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“I have made memories I will cherish forever.”

Councillor Michael Gbadebo was elected as the new deputy mayor of Bracknell Forest at the annual meeting, which took place virtually on Wednesday, May 21.

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He said: “I will serve the people of Bracknell Forest and the mayor to the best of my abilities and with compassion and devotion.”