Vivien Pengelly will be next Lord Mayor of Plymouth
FORMER council leader Vivien Pengelly has been named as the next Lord Mayor of Plymouth.
Her selection fires the starting gun in the race to take over leadership of the Conservative group on the council.
Several Tory councillors are thought to be jockeying for position in the race to take the job which she has held since June 2004.
Cllr Pengelly was council leader from May 2007 until her group lost control in May last year.
She will take over from Cllr Mike Wright as Lord Mayor at a formal election meeting on May 17, soon after her party's annual meeting, which is expected to elect a new leader.
"This is a completely different role. I have to take off one hat and put on another. I will not be political – but I was never a political animal.
"It's a terrific honour to be Lord Mayor of our fantastic city and I feel very humble. I'll do my very best to represent Plymouth and be dignified at all times."
But Cllr Pengelly, an enthusiastic football supporter and Home Park season ticket holder, added: "I can't promise to maintain my dignity when I attend Argyle games."
She said she was looking forward to "meeting all of our volunteers who do tremendous charitable work and being able to say thank you to people who help the city".
The Lord Mayor traditionally nominates two charities to benefit from the year's fund-raising work.
Cllr Pengelly said she will support the Drake Foundation community charity.
She will also help to raise money for servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Commando Gunners who return to Plymouth damaged while doing their duty.
"This is a very special year because of the bid to be UK City of Culture," Cllr Pengelly said.
"It is really important that the Lord Mayor showcases Plymouth to its very best advantage."
Council leader Tudor Evans said: "She has already represented Plymouth at the highest level, meeting captains and kings, so she is as well equipped as any Lord Mayor has been. I am sure she will represent the city very well."
The Lord Mayor presides over meetings of the full city council, and Cllr Evans said: "I hope that her legendary views on standards of behaviour will not need to be exercised in the council chamber this year."
Asked whether she would return to frontline politics after her year as Lord Mayor, Cllr Pengelly said: "I never say never. Since I've been a councillor I have only ever planned a year ahead."
Cllr Mike Wright, the present Lord Mayor, warned Cllr Pengelly that she would be busy.
"As Lord Mayor you are married to the city," he said.
"It's a lot of pressure and you don't get many days off.
"It's not only the big events like Armed Forces Day – the small ones are equally important. The people of Plymouth want to see their Lord Mayor."
Cllr Ian Bowyer (Con, Eggbuckland), who has been tipped as a future leader, said: "I am reluctant to indulge in speculation about the leadership now. Nominations don't open until mid-April and I'll take soundings in the group then."
Cllr Mike Leaves (Con, Plymstock Radford), another possible contender, said: "Speculation is a bit premature.
"Vivien will make a tremendous Lord Mayor. She has been a great asset for the city."