Close to my Herts - Jane Pitman
PUBLISHED: 20:24 02 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:41 20 February 2013
Chairman of Hertfordshire County Council, Jane Pitman, tells Louise McEvoy about the highlights she enjoys and the obstacles she faces in her role
Tell the reader a bit about yourself.
I was born in l940 in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and then spent the first six years of my life in India, where my military father was stationed. On returning to England, my parents bought a farm for 40 an acre in Sussex. I spent my childhood enjoying and often working on our farm, gaining a life-long love of animals, learning about country life, and developing an ever-growing passion for gardening.
I have been a Hertfordshire resident for nearly 40 years, living in Albury, where my husband, Giles, and I brought up our three children.
When did you first get involved in politics?
Although both my parents served as local councillors, I remember being really quite bored about their political lives and vowed this was not the way I would spend my adult life! It was not for another 20 plus years before I was persuaded to put my name forward to be a candidate as a councillor for Hertfordshire County Council.
You have been a member of Hertfordshire County Council for 26 years the longest serving member. What keeps you motivated?
My interest to stay involved with the work of the council has grown over the years. My experience has helped me understand how services work and where decisions are made.
I have welcomed the opportunity to represent the interests of people in my rural electoral division, being responsive to their needs and requests, doing my best to open stubbornly shut doors, to help people out with information they want and sort out problems.
Seven years as the Executive Member for Childrens Services was the most intensive and rewarding, especially as the corporate parent to over 1,000 children in our care.
What does your role as chairman of the council involve?
Since May 2011 I have had the privilege of being chairman of the county council.
My main duty is to chair the quarterly full council meetings. I have the pleasure of attending many of the countys events hosted by the mayors and chairmen of the 10 districts and boroughs, covering their civic dinners, church services and charity functions.
I see the key role the voluntary sector plays in making the county the way it is, getting on with the task in hand with little fuss. This is truly humbling. Their commitment helps to meet the needs of thousands of vulnerable people, protecting our beautiful countryside and contributing to the shape and culture of what we hold dear to our hearts as Hertfordshire.
What do you consider to be the highlights as chairman to date?
Highlights as chairman have been hosting various Olympic events, as Hertfordshire is a designated host county with the White Water Centre at Cheshunt; hosting the formal Hertfordshire Pledge to our armed forces families living here, working with 25 partners to remove unfair barriers to accessing services; hosting the High Sheriffs Awards evening, hearing about the wonderful work people are doing to help others.
I have much enjoyed holding around a dozen thank you receptions, inviting voluntary organisations and county council staff who have worked tirelessly through the year. I have met some wonderful people and found out about the fascinating work they are undertaking for the benefit of Hertfordshire residents.
What are the major obstacles as chairman?
There are many challenges ahead for the council. Pressures, needs and expectations are forever increasing, requiring skilled management to deliver services within the straightjacket of reducing budgets.
You were honoured with an OBE in 2009. What was this in recognition of?
I was honoured by Her Majesty with an OBE for services to children and local government a truly memorable day at the Palace.
What do you do in your spare time to unwind?
I make as much time as I can to be with my extended family and watch our grandchildren growing up. I also enjoy walking our three dogs, and adding more and more flowerbeds to the garden, which makes mowing a nightmare! Rural bliss!