Basingstoke and Deane’s new Mayor Cllr Sean Keating is keen to meet as many local people as possible in his year in office.
Cllr Keating takes over as Mayor at the Council meeting on Thursday (10 May), taking the chain of office from Cllr Paul Frankum. The official Mayor-making ceremony will be at the Council meeting on Thursday 17 May and the Deputy Mayor for 2018/19 is Cllr Diane Taylor.
“I’m going to enjoy being the borough’s Mayor,” said Cllr Keating, who has been a councillor in South Ham since 2000. With his wife Gwen by his side as Mayoress, they are looking forward to attending fundraising events, particularly those involving music and the arts.
Born in Blarney, Co Cork, Ireland, Cllr Keating jokes that he kissed the legendary Blarney Stone before coming to England at the age of 17 in search of work. “And I’ve not stopped talking since,” he said.
“I love talking to people, and that’s why I’ve chosen to support three ‘people’ charities this year – Mencap, Basingstoke NeighbourCare and Naomi House & Jacksplace. They cover a whole spectrum of people – from children to the elderly, and those with physical and mental difficulties – and meet the needs of many.”
Cllr Keating is a familiar figure in the community, particularly active in supporting local housing issues and involved in the Westside Community Centre. He was instrumental, with his fellow councillors, in getting a new Methodist church in South Ham built in 2005.
He and Gwen, who had four children and have eight grandchildren, regularly attend St Joseph’s Church in South Ham, where he was a Reader. He has received a special blessing there for becoming Mayor.
It was a chance encounter with a trade union leader while working in a coal mine in Wales that set the 18-year-old on his career path and a lifetime of looking after the welfare of others.
After leaving the coalface, he retrained in engineering and worked at Perkins Engines in Peterborough where he became a trade unionist and was made convenor.
In 1978, he was accepted onto a two year scholarship to Ruskin College in Oxford. From there he was headhunted to become a full-time trade union official.
In 1983 he came to Basingstoke to take the role of APEX National Secretary at the AA and stayed there for 10 years. His work for the white collar union APEX then led to him being made the GMB National Secretary.
At the age of 52 he retired with ill health. He then decided to indulge his passions for local politics and woodwork. He found he didn’t like woodwork so he turned his attention to serving his community as a councillor.
He has taken a keen interest in local housing matters over the years. In addition, Cllr Keating sat on the board of Kingfisher housing association, predecessor of Sovereign.
“I am delighted to be able to take on the role of Mayor and look forward continuing to support the people of Basingstoke and Deane,” he said.
Cllr Keating’s wife Gwen is retired, having had a variety of jobs working around their children. Her last job was as a cook at Verdi Close children’s home run by Hampshire County Council. She is looking forward to the position of Mayoress and supporting her husband through the Mayoral year.
For more information on the Basingstoke and Deane Mayor visit www.basingstoke.gov.uk/mayor