Councillors celebrated the life of one of their ‘big beasts’ with a round of applause after an hour of laughter and tears as they paid tribute to Labour’s Kevin Wilson.
Cllr Wilson, who lived in Eaglestone, and represented Woughton and Fishermead ward, was the first leader of the council after it became a unitary authority 22 years ago. He died on May 7.
Councillors fought back tears at Milton Keynes Council’s meeting on Wednesday as they recalled in front of Cllr Wilson’s widow, Pam, and daughter, Karen, what made their friend and mentor tick.
The Labour side, especially, spoke of being his legacy as they had been variously badgered and cajoled by Cllr Wilson to take part in political activities, and eventually to represent their neighbours as councillors.
With her voice crackling with emotion, Cllr Hannah O’Neill spoke how he was a household name in Woughton, and how he’d seen something in her.
“I always thought he would be there,” she said. “It was a real shock when he became poorly. It first looked as if he would be okay but I’ve never seen him look so fragile.
“He went downhill through the local elections. I went to see Kev when he was in hospital after the local elections.
“I wish I’d know that was the last time I would see him. The last thing I said was see you Wednesday or Thursday Kev.
“If I’d known that was the last time I would see him I would have said thank you for being my friend and my mentor, you’ve changed my life.
“He saw something in me that I never saw in myself and brought me on and I am so, so grateful for that. It’s a debt I’ll never be able to repay. All that we can do is be the best representative we can be, be there for people that need us.
“If I can do half those things then I would have done him proud, but I don’t know how I’ll do it without him. I will miss him and I think we will all miss him.”
Cllr Wilson’s death continues to be felt across the city’s political divide. Cllr Wilson was a teacher, and one of his pupils, Alex Walker, became MK’s Conservative leader.
Long serving Conservative David Hopkins said: “I can’t believe he’s not there, and I almost feel his chair should be retired, that we never again let anyone sit in that chair.
“He was a big beast. Whenever Kevin spoke, everyone stopped and listened. We don’t have many big beasts left and we shall miss him for that.”
On one occasion Cllr Wilson scored a brilliant goal for a councillors’ five a side football team. Cllr Hopkins said: “You could see that he was there in Preston North End’s colours. Absolutely brilliant.”
Cllr Wilson was a supporter of the MK Dons, and he lived long enough to see them promoted at the end of last season.
Fellow MK Dons season ticket holder, Lib Dem Cllr Robin Bradburn, recalled on one committee that Cllr Wilson rebuked another councillor for “looking for witches where there are none”.
“That phrase will stay with me. Milton Keynes is a poorer place without him.”
Sue Smith of Woughton Community Council, said his work showed how one person could make a difference through “passion, devotion, and hard work.”
His knowledge of councils was “second to none”, she said, and allied to his analytical brain and wit was admired.
But she added that being a husband, dad, and granddad were the achievements he was by far the proudest of.
Others spoke of how Cllr Wilson had been instrumental in creating parish councils across MK.
Alderwoman Hilary Saunders said: “When I first met him, knowing my husband’s acquaintances, I thought he’d got a beer gut but he wasn’t a drinker at all. It’s all the biscuits and sandwiches from council meetings.
“He was very hard worker for the Labour party. He gave great service to all Milton Keynes residents.
“He had the one fault and he was nagged about it endlessly and I nagged him as much as I could, but he kept on smoking.
“So smokers out there, beware. Beware. I’m sorry we’ve lost Kevin so early.
“We should have had him around another 15 or 20 years but I am really pleased that I did know him.”