Owen Baldock’s busy year as Tonbridge & Malling Mayor comes to and end in a few weeks, but he will still have time to complete one of his final duties – marking the Queen’s 90th birthday with a beacon at Tonbridge Castle.
Although his tenure in office is drawing to a close, Cllr Baldock is confident he will be handing over to a safe pair of hands as his successor, Mark Rhodes, is a life-long friend and colleague, and was even best man at his wedding.
Between them, the pair, who first met during their school days in Southborough, have amassed a total of more than 60 years’ service on the local council.
A growing population and economy means Tonbridge has undergone many changes in recent years but the mayor feels the town has retained its strong community spirit.
“Having been on the council for 32 years, it is nice to be recognised by your peers,” said the 59-year-old, who lives in Hadlow with his wife Christine.
Among his own most memorable moments are being part of the Battle of Britain commemorations at Capel-le-Ferne, as well as fund raising for his chosen charities. These include The Bridge Trust, which helps homeless people in West Kent, and the family bereavement support group, Slide Away.
Mr Baldock will have helped raise around £6,000 during the year through a series of activities which will be split between the two causes.
Another of his favourite experiences has been his work with young people. “I have loved going to the schools in the area. I’ve had so many comments from primary children, such as ‘you must be ever so rich,’ through to being called a prince, a king and even the Chancellor,” added Cllr Baldock with amusement.
Having retired from his role as a research engineer at Fort Halstead in Sevenoaks, what spare moments he has had have enabled him more time for his hobbies.
These include photography, metal detecting, and a passion for classic cars that has seen him and his wife make a 2,000-mile journey around the country in their vintage 1930s Ford 8 Model Y car.
Cllr Baldock, who has lived in the area since 1970, added: “I think Tonbridge is special as there aren’t many towns that can say they have a castle on their doorstop. I just love the place.”