SDLP Councillor Brenda Stevenson last night made history by becoming the final Mayor of Derry ahead of the council’s merger with Strabane.
Mrs Stevenson- the niece of John Hume-also became the first person in her family to hold the office of Mayor, one of the few political offices her uncle never occupied.
Mayor Stevenson said she was delighted to be taking on the chain of office in front of family, friends and colleagues at last night’s Annual General Meeting of Derry City Council in the Guildhall.
Among those in the gallery were her husband Tommy and her sons Ben and Ross, parents Paddy and Bridget and father-in-law Andy.
She will hold the honour for nine months before the Derry & Strabane Council comes into affect in April next year.
Former Thornhill pupil and Queens University graduate Mrs Stevenson told the Journal: “I am really, really excited by the challenge ahead.
“This is a very historic occasion as I am not just the last Mayor of Derry but also the only Hume to hold the office of Mayor, so in terms of the legacy of the family and the wider SDLP legacy I will be going out on a high.
“I will be hitting the ground running and there is no better person to do that. I have always risen to the challenge and never been afraid to face the unknown.”
Her selection as Mayor of Derry comes just over a week since Ms Stevenson lost out on being re-elected to the new supercouncil. In the end there was just three votes in it.
Mrs Stevenson said that not being part of the new supercouncil make-up however may have a silver lining.
“They say a week in politics is a long time and that is certainly true for me.
“It’s a big year ahead and in very many ways I am lucky I can focus on this and I won’t have to attend meetings for the new supercouncil.
“They will have a big job of work to do and I will have a busy year myself.
“I want to dedicate my year to young people. They are the future of our city and I want to be a very good role model for them.”
Mrs Stevenson has secured a career break from her job with the Western Trust’s Speech and Language Department, based at Foyleview and Belmont schools.
She praised work colleagues for supporting her throughout her time in public office. And while the new Mayor will not be sitting on the new supercouncil first time round, Ms Stevenson has not ruled out running for public office again.
“You don’t need to be elected to be a good leader,” she said. “I will always stay politically involved and will continue to support all my colleagues in the SDLP.
“We have a job of work to do as we face into Westminster elections and I will be there, totally supportive.
“I will not be walking away from rural areas either and I will continue to serve the people of the rural area.”.
She also paid tribute to her family, including her four sisters and one brother, for making her the person she is today.
She added that her late mother-in-law Joyce had been one of her biggest supporters and a great source of inspiration.