Cllr Jim Brown was confirmed as Stevenage's new mayor at the annual council meeting on Wednesday, May 22.

Cllr Brown replaces departing mayor, Cllr Myla Arceno.

In her farewell speech, Cllr Arceno said it had been a "great honour to be given this gift of servitude for this town and for the people of Stevenage".

She said that she had "loved every moment of it", and thanked those who had helped her, particularly her consort and son, John, and her husband, Joseph.

Throughout the year, £11,500 was raised for the mayoral charities chosen by Cllr Arceno - Douglas Drive Daycare Centre, the Red Shed, Hertswise, and Stevenage World Forum. Cllr Arceno will continue to be the council's 'dementia champion'.

Council leader Cllr Richard Henry said Cllr Arceno had been a "fabulous" mayor, while Conservative Cllr Phil Bibby added that she had been a "sparkling influence".

Cllr Arceno's successor, Cllr Brown, is serving as mayor for the second time - he was previously mayor during the pandemic-affected 2020/21 term.

Cllr Brown is originally from Wandsworth and moved to Stevenage in 1992. His varied career has included jobs in local government, as a teacher, and with the NHS and British steel.

His political history goes back a long way - he was expelled from school after handing out leaflets in favour of comprehensive education, and was a fervent campaigner against the poll tax. In the 1970s, he took part in counter-demonstrations against the National Front in Lewisham.

Now representing Bandley Hill and Poplars ward as a Labour councillor, Cllr Brown first stood for election in 1976 - and finally won an election in 2012, at his thirteenth try.

A keen runner and cyclist, he is part of Fairlands Valley Spartans and has run more than 60 marathons, including 23 London marathons, with a best time under three hours.

Cllr Brown was also a board member and trustee of Cycling UK for more than 20 years. He has been a governor at Marriotts School for almost 30 years.

Cllr Stephen Booth, Liberal Democrat group leader, praised Cllr Brown's "thoughtful and penetrating" questions at council meetings, while Cllr Bibby said that he "looked forward to a very successful" mayoral year.


In his speech, Cllr Brown noted the diverse make-up of the council: "Forget the politics, we have councillors now aged 25 to 80-something, 18 women, a huge range of backgrounds, religions and no religions, some with disabilities, some LGBTQ+, many different occupations, loads of experiences.

"Stevenage has become a very diverse and interesting town over the last few years, and that's starting to be reflected here."

Cllr Brown thanked councillors for making him mayor again after his "difficult" previous mayoral year, and said that his slogan for his mayoral year will be "come together".

He has chosen Stevenage Arts Guild, Hertfordshire Sports Partnership and People for People as his mayoral charities. Cllr Brown's mayoress will be his partner, Penny Schenkel.

Deputy mayor for this year is Cllr Nazmin Chowdhury, one of the councillors for Bedwell ward.

She was nominated by her fellow Bedwell councillors, Cllr Ellie Plater and Cllr Conor McGrath.

They described Cllr Chowdhury as an "advocate for her residents and a beacon of hope for our community" who will make an "exceptional" deputy mayor.

The deputy mayor's consort will be her husband, Kier Williams.

Meanwhile, departing youth mayor Ella Lacey gave a speech saying that it had been a "captivating and new experience".

She handed over to Lahaina Sutherland, who was announced as the new youth mayor.

The Comet: Lahaina Sutherland is Stevenage's new youth mayor.Lahaina Sutherland is Stevenage's new youth mayor. (Image: Stevenage Borough Council)

Lahaina described as an "honour" to be selected, and said she will be "committed to addressing the concerns of young people in Stevenage".

She picked out public transport, safety, inclusivity and opportunities for young people as areas she will focus on during her year in office.

Frankie Duncan is the new deputy youth mayor, replacing Anisa Mathew.