Hitchin town centre manager Keith Hoskins honoured with flagpole ahead of retirement

PUBLISHED: 17:53 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:53 25 March 2019

Hitchin's departing town centre manager Keith Hoskins (right) will be replaced by Tom Hardy. Picture: Hitchin BID

Hitchin's departing town centre manager Keith Hoskins (right) will be replaced by Tom Hardy. Picture: Hitchin BID

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Departing Hitchin town centre manager Keith Hoskins has been honoured for his 22 years of service with a flagpole in Market Place unveiled today.

A flagpole was unveiled to honour Hitchin's departing town centre manager Keith Hoskins. Picture: Hitchin BIDA flagpole was unveiled to honour Hitchin's departing town centre manager Keith Hoskins. Picture: Hitchin BID

Keith officially retires from the role at the end of this week, with Tom Hardy taking over full-time after an initial year-long handover period.

A flagpole in Hitchin was always one of Keith’s aims, and he was delighted to get one as a retirement present, telling the Comet: “I’m stunned. I’ve been trying for a long time to have a flagpole in Market Place and there were always reasons why it couldn’t happen.

“This is amazing for it to be in my final week. I’m stunned they managed to keep it a secret.”

His successor Tom managed to keep the flagpole unveiling from Keith with a clever ruse that even involved Herts County Council’s highways department.

A flagpole was unveiled to honour Hitchin's departing town centre manager Keith Hoskins. Picture: Hitchin BIDA flagpole was unveiled to honour Hitchin's departing town centre manager Keith Hoskins. Picture: Hitchin BID

“A few months ago I made the decision to do the flagpole,” said Tom.

“I got highways involved and they sent an email to me saying it was going to be a community water fountain.

“I forwarded that to Keith and kept it a secret.”

Keith added: “He’s a genius. Every time I raised a question about it there was always a plausible answer for it.

A flagpole was unveiled to honour Hitchin's departing town centre manager Keith Hoskins. Picture: Hitchin BIDA flagpole was unveiled to honour Hitchin's departing town centre manager Keith Hoskins. Picture: Hitchin BID

“It was very well done I just can’t believe it.”

Keith first came to Hitchin in 1997 and has helped the town grow into a thriving location for independent businesses.

Known to many as ‘Mr Hitchin’, he was awarded an MBE in 2014 for services to the community.

Tom isn’t phased by the task of filling Keith’s shoes, saying: “He’s done so much for the town. He’s given 22 years of service to Hitchin.

“There’s been a long handover and – understanding the complexity of the town centre, the business improvement district and what the initiative do – it’s needed that.

“I feel confident and ready, and Keith is happy to pass the torch.”

Tom already has plenty of events lined up for the rest of the year, including the return of the beach in Market Place and a new event called Hitchin Rocks.

As for Keith – who is running as a Liberal Democrat candidate in May’s local elections – he intends to stay involved in the town despite his retirement.

“I have huge fond memories and still intend to stay engaged in community life,” he said.

“I’ve lived here for 22 years so I won’t be wandering off somewhere else.”

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