New mayor of Milton Keynes Sam Crooks is married to a leading French journalist who will travel from Paris to MK to support her husband during key moments in his new civic role.
Cllr Crooks was formally elected to his new position at the annual meeting of Milton Keynes Council on Wednesday, where he spoke forcefully about his vision for the future of Milton Keynes.
His wife, and now new Mayoress, Isabelle Musnik, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that she and her husband would take a look at the diary of events throughout the year and decide which key occasions she can attend.
“Sometimes it takes me one hour to get from one part of Paris to another,” she said, “and it takes just 35 minutes to get from London to Milton Keynes by train.”
She and her husband, who have one daughter, Natacha, have had two addresses for years and see no difficulty in continuing the Eurostar-based travel arrangement which allows them both to pursue their work and interests.
Cllr Crooks has described his love for Milton Keynes in these terms: “I remember looking down what became Midsummer Boulevard and I take pride in what we have created.”
In his formal acceptance speech, and speaking to a mainly white audience, the Liberal Democrat who has been twice leader of the council as well as standing to be an MP, said: “The mayor must be truly representative of the whole borough, whether urban or rural, black, brown or white, man or woman, regardless of age, sexuality or politics. The mayoralty is not my office. It belongs to the people of Milton Keynes.
“And second, I want to share my huge pride in the wonderful city that we have created and are constantly renewing. In less than 100 years we will have gone from the historic small towns and villages of North Bucks to one of England’s top ten cities – truly a triumph for all of us living here.”
Cllr Crooks, a teacher who has worked in the USA, and in Paris from 1993-2002, said he will promote five interests during his term, including working as much as possible with young people and the Youth Cabinet because “They are our future.”
Originally from a military family living in Belfast he wants to share the heritage of everyone in Milton Keynes. “I delight in the diversity of this city and in the invitations I have already received from Sri Lankan, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Syrian, Polish and many other groups.
“We are blessed as a city to have so many different heritages. I ask everyone to share those heritages – we will all be enriched.”
He also wants to make “the same commitment to our forces that they make to us, every day, and in so many parts of the world.” And he wants to “help develop the business sector’s relationship with the council to our mutual benefit.”
Cllr Crooks also warned against Milton Keynes becoming a “two speed city” where poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, inadequate housing and problems of mental health is masked.
“Pride in our borough must be something in which we all share,” he said.
The council’s Labour leader Pete Marland welcomed Cllr Crooks to his new role, and joining a “select club” of people who have been council leader and mayor. “He is a prime example of how to serve the city and community with a passion. He is a top class individual.
“He’ll do a great job as first citizen of MK.”
Cllr Alex Walker, the Conservative leader, said: “If Milton Keynes was a video game, Cllr Crooks, you would have completed it.
“I believe you will be a European mayor, for a European city.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Robin Bradburn made a connection between the performance of the mayor and the success, or otherwise, of the MK Dons football team.
“Martin Petchey, the outgoing mayor, became the first Labour mayor to have a promotion in the same year. The two previous Tory mayors saw relegations.
“The last Lib Dem mayor saw the Dons get into the Championship.
“No pressure, Sam!”