End of an era as Shepherd calls it a day
OVER two decades of dedication to local government and communities drew to a close when Councillor Ron Shepherd announced his resignation from Moray Council.
Councillor Shepherd (81), who lives in Cullen and originally hails from Kirkton, represented first of all Rathford ward and, on the introduction of multi-member wards, the Keith-Cullen ward on the local authority as an Independent. One of the longest serving elected members on the council since Moray was created as a unitary authority in 1999, he was also a member Cullen Town Council prior to regionalisation in 1976.
While the spirit of public was still strong in him, Councillor Shepherd said he had "reluctantly" taken the step to stand down due to health problems.
During his long career with the council, Councillor Shepherd served as the chairman of the licensing board and was a member of the Grampian Valuation Board, Grampian Joint Police Board and Grampian Fire Board, the last particularly close to his heart due to his time spent, like his father before him, as a retained firefighter in Cullen. He was a member of every post-1999 Moray council administration until the SNP formed a minority administration last year.
He was also a Justice of the Peace for 23 years, which included presiding over Moray District Court.
Councillor Shepherd said: "This was a very hard decision for me to make – this has been my life for so long, but my recent ill-health has forced me to reluctantly retire from the job I love.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the constituents of my ward who have put their trust in me over the last 20 years to represent them as their councillor. I've enjoyed every minute of it since becoming an Independent Moray councillor in 1999.
"There've been a lot of changes over the years, perhaps the biggest being the switch to multi-member wards in 2007, and I've been fortunate to have served most of the last 20 years in the administration which ran the council. I would like to thankall the various conveners that I served under for their support and friendship over the years.
"I would like to thank council chief executive Roddy Burns, who I knew for many years before I became a councillor, for all the help he gave me. Also, I would like to thanks the council officers, who I always had the greatest respect for.
"Lastly, a thank you to Councillor John Divers, the last man standing since I entered the council in 1999."
Councillor Shepherd's ward colleagues, Councillors Donald Gatt and Theresa Coull, paid tribute to his time in office.
"I was saddened to learn that Ron is retiring from Moray Council after two decades of public service," Councillor Gatt commented.
"[It's] a decision which is entirely understandable and which will enable him to fully concentrate on his health and family.
“Two decades of public service as an elected representative is a notable feat and shows the high regard Ron is held in locally. Ron is a great promoter of Cullen, a fountain of experience and local knowledge which he readily imparts to the benefit of others.
"I wish Ron well for his retirement and hope that he can enjoy more time with wife Dorothy and his family.”
Councillor Coull said: "It has been an honour to work with Ron since my election to the Moray Council as councillor for the Keith Cullen Ward.
"Although I have known Ron for many years, I have enjoyed his company along with his friendly sense of humour. His knowledge of local issues along with his dedication over 20 years as a councillor has been exceptional and it will be strange in the council chambers without him.
"It will not have been an easy decision for him to retire but I have every respect for him doing so. I am sure Ron will be looking forward to spending more time with Dorothy and his family andI wish him all the best in his retirement."
As retirement beckons for Councillor Ron Shepherd, there was an opportunity to reflect on career which harks back to the days of town councils.
After being encouraged to stand for the then Cullen Town Council in the 1970s by local worthy Mary Donn, Councillor Shepherd, then in his thirties, entered public life with something of a bang.
"I defeated the provost in the poll and as I remember, he wasn't too pleased about it for a while after," he recalled with a chuckle.
"I really enjoyed it on the town council, it was very local and you knew everybody.
"Helping people both then and on Moray Council has been hugely satisfying, it was the reason I did it. There was always something different coming your way.
"As a councillor, though, you're public property, people approach you all the time, even in Kirk. I never said 'No', though. Hopefully I'll get a bit of time to myself after I retire."
After a break of nearly a quarter of a century from local government, Councillor Shepherd was persuaded to throw his hat back in the ring for the 1999 election by the late Buckie councillor Bill Jappy.
With more time on his hands, Councillor Shepherd is looking forward to enjoying more weekend breaks away with wife Dorothy and spending more time with his great grandchildren.
Councillor Shepherd is due to relinquish his role as a councillor on October 4. A by-election is scheduled for November 21.