The ceremonial robes and chains have been officially handed over to the new mayor of St Albans, Geoff Harrison.

The Cunningham representative, who was described as a "well loved district councillor" in his nomination, joined the district council 14 years ago.

Councillor Sheila Burton put Councillor Harrison forward to be the district’s 470th mayor.

During her recommendation speech Councillor Burton said: "Everybody knows Geoff. People know him for his community work and his work from the Rotary Club.

"Geoff has brought this sense of involvement in the community down south to St Albans.

"Besides being a well loved district councillor, he is also known as the man from Morrisons.

"This is the ideal job for Geoff. He is paid by Morrisons to be a community champion. People come and chat to him, ask his advice, he listens to their problems, queries and complaints.

"He is easy to talk to, an approachable guy, and he is always willing to listen and try and help."

"Around December every year Geoff translates in to Father Christmas.  He is the permanent Father Christmas for Fleetville Infant School and many other places - dispensing around goodwill and Christmas cheer.

"Geoff is the ideal person to be the mayor. He is welcoming, easy to approach and hospitable. He is a really community champion."

Councillor Harrison is originally from Chester but lived in Yorkshire for more than 30 years, where he was a scout leader. He moved to St Albans 20 years ago.

Councillor Burton also mentioned some of the new mayor’s achievements. For a number of years Councillor Harrison has served as a trustee of the Pioneer Youth Centre, chairs the Cell Barnes Youth Project, which helps problem youngsters and reduces anti-social behaviour and is president elect of Rotary Club of St Albans Verulamium.

Seconding the notion for Councillor Harrison to become the new mayor, Councillor Robert Donald described him as a "sociable, fun loving decent human being who is a very good friend and loyal colleague."

On accepting his new position Councillor Harrison said: "I am looking forward to this year immensely.

"I am looking at my diary already and I have got some really interesting things that I have got to go and do.

"I would like to thank Sheila and Robert and of course I would like to thank my family, both Moira (his wife), my sister, my nephew, my little granddaughter and my grandson.

"But mainly I would like to thank everyone in this room for having faith in me to be the mayor of this district."

Councillor Harrison also paid tribute to the retiring mayor, Annie Brewster.

He said: "What a marvellous job Annie has done over this past 12 months. When I was told I was going to be mayor I thought I am never going to get in a size eight dress.

"What Annie has done for this district is a tremendous job. She has been here there everywhere. Thank you very much on behalf of St Albans and district for all your hard work."

Councillor Harrison’s chosen charity is the Dream Foundation, founded by St Albans Zoe Jackson, which aims to provide free performing arts training and opportunities for young people in financial hardship.

During last night’s ceremony the former mayor Annie Brewster congratulated the new mayor.
She said: " The most common comment I get when I go anywhere is: "are you the mayor? Because you don’t look like the mayor"- well Geoffrey you do.

"You look fabulous and what a wonderful mayor you are going to be. You have helping others running through your veins."

Councillor Brewster also reflected on her mayoral year. She said: "It has been a delight to work with so many charities, raising money for them and getting to know the wonderful charities in our district.

"It is our privilege to actually get out there and learn who is out there and my wish is that every councillor has the opportunity to be mayor just for that very reason. It is staggering.

"The best thing about the job has been meeting so many people. Seeing people in different hats is quite extraordinary, seeing them in their church, or their business, or their school.

"We all know this- we have the most extraordinary community and the most wonderful city and district and I have enjoyed the honour and privilege to touch it at its most basic grass route and to be its mayor.

"My proudest moment is all of it."

Councillor Brewster raised more than £30,000 for her chosen charity, The Living Room, which supports people living with addictions including more than £5,000 for Rennie Grove Hospice during the Inaugural Mayor Sprint Triathlon event.

Councillor Janet Churchard was appointed the deputy mayor for the year, taking over the role from Councillor Brian Gibbard.