Tributes paid to county chairman

ONE of Suffolk's hardest working and most respected politicians has died today after a lengthy battle against cancer.

Richard Cornwell

ANN Rodwell, chairman of Suffolk county council since last May, has died following a long battle with cancer.

It was during the general election campaign of 2005 that Mrs Rodwell felt a lump in her throat. Later the discomfort increased and it became difficult to eat. Hospital tests discovered cancer of the oesophagus -which leads from the pharynx to the stomach - and a series of operations were needed

She became mayor of Felixstowe in 2006 saying: “I am clear of the cancer now but I have been told it will come back - I will have to be extremely lucky for it not to.”

However, her fears were realised but despite her deteriorating health, she jumped at the opportunity to become chairman of the county council in May of year.

When she was elected unanimously as chairman, she bravely told councillors of her determination to see through her year of office. But her health deteriorated in the autumn and she died this morning. She is survived by her husband, two children and four grandchildren.

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First elected to the authority in 1977 for the Colneis division of Felixstowe, she served until retiring in 1997. She was elected in a 1994 by-election for Felixstowe Ferry and the following year won the new seat of Felixstowe Coastal.

Mrs Rodwell served on a number of committees and at various times she was chairman of the libraries, museums and amenities Committee for seven years, took charge of the influential social services committee, and served on the development control committee and the standards and disciplinary and grievance committees.

Her dedicated service to her local community also included long spells as a governor of Felixstowe schools. She was chairman of governors of Trimley St. Mary primary school for 30 years and of Orwell high school for 11 years.

As well as her county council, Mrs Rodwell's political career included four years' service on Suffolk coastal district council from 2003. She was mayor of Felixstowe in 2006/7 having been elected to the Town Council in 2003.

Ann and her husband, Gordon, were partners in a Funeral Directors company in Felixstowe until the late 1980s. She then managed a branch of a national limousine hire company until her retirement in 1991.

Leading the tributes to Mrs Rodwell, council leader Jeremy Pembroke said: “Ann was a warm and very popular member of the Conservative group at county hall. We admired, above all, her indomitable courage and her refusal to give in - she never once shirked her responsibilities as Chairman of the council during her illness.”

Charles Michell, vice-chairman of the authority said: “Everyone who knew Ann will miss her terribly. She was one of those special people who commanded respect and affection from all sides of politics.

“Her courage in all she stood for was never better displayed than in the way she played her final role as Chairman of the County Council, dedicated to her duties and uncomplaining of her illness. She will be a big loss to public life.”

For the Labour group on the council, leader Julian Swainson said Suffolk had lost a councillor with a distinctive presence who was a champion for her corner of Suffolk.

“Like many councillors, her reputation grew from a wide range of enthusiasms and activities, from playing in a rock and roll band to leading her community in the highest civic offices.”

Kathy Pollard, speaking on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, said: “Ann has been a faithful servant to the people of Suffolk for more than two decades. I would like to pay tribute to her selfless dedication and to the determination and courage with which she fought her illness.

“We all knew that Ann's time was limited, but had hoped that she could finish her year as county council chairman.”

- To pay your tributes to Mrs Rodwell, simply leave a comment below.