Stevenage has welcomed a new mayor, with Cllr Myla Arceno confirmed in the role at the Annual Council meeting of Stevenage Borough Council last week.

Cllr Arceno takes over from Cllr Margaret Notley, who served as mayor for 2022-23.

Meanwhile, Cllr Jim Brown has replaced Cllr Arceno as deputy mayor, and Ella Lacey has replaced Paige Abrey as youth mayor. For the first time, a deputy youth mayor has also been named, with Anisa Mathew taking up the role.

Cllr Arceno was proposed as mayor by Cllr Richard Henry, leader of the council, and seconded by Cllr Lloyd Briscoe, her fellow councillor for Martins Wood ward.

Cllr Briscoe said that he thought the year ahead was likely to be "very colourful, vibrant and entertaining" with Cllr Arceno as mayor.

Cllr Arceno moved to the Stevenage from the Philippines in 2003, accompanied by Joseph, her husband, and John, her son. Her family expanded in 2005 with the birth of Mary, her daughter.

She is a qualified physiotherapist who has worked at the Lister and QEII hospitals, and will continue to work three days a week during her mayoral year.

Cllr Arceno has been active in civic life over a number of years, co-founding the Stevenage Filipino-British Community and the Hertfordshire-wide Bario Festival. She is also an active member of the European Network of Filipino Diaspora, and was last year named among the most influential Filipina women around the world.

When she was first elected to the council in 2021, she became the first female Filipina councillor in the UK, and she has since served on an array of council committees.

She now becomes the third Filipino mayor in the UK - but the first from the Labour party. Her consort will be her son, John Arceno, who she described as being her "number one fan".

In a heartfelt speech, Cllr Arceno said that as a young girl in the Philippines she had dreamed of becoming mayor of her hometown.

When she moved to Stevenage with her family, they thought it would be for just a few years - "but here we are, twenty years on".

"We feel in love with our life here, with the people, communities, our work, schools, the churches and friends, and, most importantly, we did not just feel in love, we feel loved."

Cllr Arceno promised to maintain her cheerful nature as mayor, and said that she had been able to reach the role because "of the opportunity, support and love that I received, together with my family, from everyone in our community".

Her Christian faith came to the fore several times during her speech, and she promised the priest of her church that she would continue giving communion and doing the readings despite the hectic year ahead.

Cllr Arceno's chosen mayoral charities for this year as Douglas Drive Daycare Centre, the Red Shed, Hertswise, and Stevenage World Forum. She said that she wants to make Stevenage "a dementia-friendly town" for people who suffer from it, and their families.

Cllr Phil Bibby, leader of the Conservative group, and Cllr Robin Parker, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, both welcomed Cllr Arceno to her new role.

Cllr Parker said that she had "made a very positive impression" during her two years as councillor, and that she has "been a cheerful influence on some of us grumpy old men".

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The outgoing mayor, Cllr Notley - who was also mayor in 2018-19 - also gave a speech, reflecting on the 221 engagements she attended.

She thanked her mayoress, Cathy Bibby, and numerous others for their help during her time as mayor, which she described as being a "very memorable and unforgettable" experience.

Her highlights included attending the High Sheriff's awards, Stevenage Irish Network's lunch for St Patrick's Day, the Hertfordshire Schools' Gala at the Royal Albert Hall, choosing Stevenage's friendliest street and waving off a Bedwell resident on a charity cycle ride.

During Cllr Notley's year as mayor, "well over £1,000" was raised for her chosen charities, which were the Anne Robson Trust, Stevenage District Scouts and the Stevenage and Grange Rotary Clubs.

Working alongside Cllr Arceno will be Cllr Jim Brown, the new deputy mayor, nominated by Cllr Loraine Rossati and seconded by Cllr Jeannette Thomas.

Representing Old Town ward, Cllr Brown served as mayor during the Covid-hit 2020-21 year. His deputy mayoress will be Penny Schenkel.

Cllr Brown has lived in Stevenage since 1992, and was first elected as a councillor in 2012. He has been a governor of Marriotts School for 28 years, and is a board member and charity trustee for Cycling UK. In his spare time, he coaches at Fairlands Valley Spartans running club, and is an accomplished runner himself - Cllr Brown has run over 50 marathons, with a fastest time of two hours and 57 minutes.

In the final mayoral changes, Paige Abrey stepped down as youth mayor, describing it as "one of the best years" of her life so far. Her replacement is Ella Lacey, who proposed by Cllr Sandra Barr and seconded by Cllr Mason Humberstone. Cllr Humberstone became SBC's youngest councillor when elected last month.

Ella is a pupil at Marriotts School with a passion for rugby. Her priorities during her mayoral year will be to improve access to out-of-school activities, support mental wellbeing provision, and promote equality for all young people regardless of their backgrounds.

Other council appointments were also confirmed at the meeting, including the leaders and deputy leaders of each party, members of the executive, and members of the various committees.

Among the few changes that were made, Cllr Bret Facey has replaced Cllr Graham Lawrence as deputy leader of the opposition and deputy leader of the Conservative group.

The Liberal Democrats have also changed their deputy leader, with Cllr Stephen Booth replacing Cllr Andy McGuinness.

No changes were made to the executive portfolio holders.