Express & Star

Tributes paid to veteran Stafford councillor

A veteran former councillor who dedicated more than 35 years to serving Stafford residents has died.

Former Stafford Borough Councillor Chris Baron

Chris Baron also represented Stafford Borough as its Mayor during 1999/2000 and was Deputy Mayor in 2007/8.

She was first elected onto Stafford Borough Council in 1987, where she represented the town centre Forebridge ward, and was a Liberal Democrat before serving as an independent member in more recent years.

But she did not contest her seat in May due to ill health, after suffering a stroke earlier this year. She was due to be made an Honorary Alderman in recognition of her service to Stafford Borough, but died on Tuesday (October 24) at Royal Stoke University Hospital, aged 77, before she was able to formally have her new title bestowed on her.

Mrs Baron was married to the late Geoffrey, also a former councillor, and they had four children, as well as 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. She lived in Telegraph Street, next door to former Newsletter stalwart Philip Thurlow-Craig, who also died this month and he was her Deputy Mayor’s Consort during her time in office.

In recent months Mrs Baron had been cared for at Autumn House in Stone. Her granddaughter Sam Taker said she passed away with one of her sons beside her on Tuesday.

She added: “She brought me up to be the best I could be and I’m a strong independent woman. I wouldn’t have been that without her.

“I followed in her footsteps and I have my own business and thrive on dealing with the community because that’s what I have been brought up to know. I have many fond memories of her.

“She did so much for everybody else and never had time for herself. Thirty-six years on the council is such a long time.”

Mrs Baron chaired the borough council’s Community Scrutiny Committee between 2000 and 2003 and 2008 and 2011 and the Housing Scrutiny Committee during 2006-7. She was vice chairman of the Environmental Health and Public Protection Committee during 1992-3.

Councillor Ann Edgeller said she was heartbroken at Mrs Baron’s passing. “She wasn’t only a colleague, but a good friend of mine”, she added.

“We worked together on the Support Stafford Hospital group and we had a very close friendship. She was a people person and cared so much about the area.”

Councillor Edgeller said it was sad that Mrs Baron would not see the reopening of Market Square on Saturday (October 28) following its refurbishment. Mrs Baron had spoken out about the condition of the square and called for its improvement in recent years, as well as successfully campaigning for a residents’ on-street parking scheme in the Wolverhampton Road area.

Council leader Aidan Godfrey said: “It was with great sadness I heard that Alderman Chris Baron had passed away. Chris was not just a hard-working councillor for many years but a friend to her constituents and colleagues alike.

“Chris was always ready to listen to people’s problems, and joys, with a warm and caring style that made her so popular with people, especially in her ward of Forebridge. I have known Chris for nearly 30 years, in that time I have really appreciated her wise counsel and understanding of things that matter to people.

“I shall miss her advice and friendly joking. Upon her retirement she was awarded the honorary title of Alderman of Stafford Borough by her council colleagues.

“She will be missed by all, past and present, involved with Stafford Borough Council, she was a unique member of our council and a much-loved community representative. All at Stafford Borough Council send our condolences to her family and friends, she will be remembered fondly.

The flag was flown at half mast above Stafford Borough Council’s civic offices as a mark of respect and a minute’s silence was observed before Wednesday’s planning committee meeting, where chairman Brendan McKeown described her as a “stalwart for the area.” Councillor Jeremy Pert, leader of the Conservative group on the borough council, said she was a well-liked and respected councillor across all the political parties.

“I had the honour of working alongside Chris for the last 12 years and know that she was a very dedicated local councillor who knew her own mind extremely well and was very independent in her thinking. And if she thought that you were wrong she would most certainly let you know, in her gentle but clear way”, he said.

“Chris was a long-standing pillar in her community, whose dedication and hard work over many decades was widely respected by her residents and who’s like we will not see again. Many will remember Chris with fondness for all the work that she did in the Stafford Indoor Market and across the wider Stafford area.”

Speaking in 2015, Mrs Baron said she felt honoured to represent the Forebridge ward. She added: “I’m a firm believer in working for people and serving people and I think all local authorities should represent the people rather than party politics.”

Alongside her council work Mrs Baron was a governor at St Paul’s School for many years. She was also a trustee of the Forebridge Charity, chairman of the trustees of Stafford United Charities, (the Alms Houses) and secretary of Stafford Borough Crime Prevention Panel.

Stafford residents paid tribute to Mrs Baron on social media following the announcement of her death. Lorraine Conkey, who runs community groups in the town, said: “Chris was a leading light and champion for Stafford with many years of dedicated service as an independent borough councillor for the town centre and Forebridge area – our thoughts are with all of her family.”

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.