Meet the new mayor of Beccles who plans to tackle the town's 'hidden issues'
PUBLISHED: 17:07 15 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:07 15 May 2019
The new mayor of Beccles hopes to raise awareness on mental health within the town as she gears up for a "fresh and exciting" year.
Andrea Downes, 45, was voted into the role at a Beccles Town Council meeting on Tuesday, May 14, with youth champion, Ashley Lever voted as deputy mayor. Ms Downes, who hails from Surrey, fell in love with Beccles and described the quaint market town as "a little piece of heaven".
In her acceptance speech, she said: "Just over five years ago I was invited to a council meeting by a man who nurtured me, a single mum to a wonderful little boy, who was on benefits.
"He saw things in me I would never have seen. He gave me a chance. I walked into this chamber as a spectator just to get an idea of what the town council was like.
"Eventually my dream ran away with me and wondered what it would be like to be mayor.
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"The following year I got voted onto this Council and realised I may be a step closer to that dream," she said.
The former taxi driver is passionate about unveiling the reality of mental health and wellbeing within the town and is "trying to break down the barriers" with her mayoral appeal.
"My experience as a humble taxi driver taught me so much about the hidden needs of this town.
"There are people living with debt, self-harm, suicide - we had two in the town last year that I know of, suicidal thoughts, bereavement, addiction, domestic abuse, hoarding, everyday stresses and anxieties, the list goes on.
"This can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation that isn't obvious to the outside world," she said.
In her speech, she said: "Life doesn't get more perfect than this. I can't tell you what an honour this is for me and I will put everything into it to make it a great year.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart to you all. This one and the one I wear on my sleeve."