Telford mayor Rajash Mehta: A bridge builder with message of unity
Brought up in Liverpool, the son of an immigrant Punjabi family, Rajash Mehta is now mayor of Telford.
Today he writes for the Shropshire Star of his pride and his aims and hopes for the forthcoming year.
The mayor, who moved to Telford 13 years ago, says he has a perspective of life that will help him in his role as both a councillor and as the town’s ceremonial leader.
He said: “I was immersed in both cultures which allowed me to gain an understanding of what it means to be British, what it means to be Indian and most importantly, what it means to be part of a community.”
Councillor Mehta has enjoyed a whirlwind start to his time as mayor, helping Telford celebrate its 50th birthday year.
He writes: "Ribbon cuttings and official ceremonies are a big part of any mayor’s role but since my election in May, I’ve been doing things a little differently.
I had my head shaved and climbed a wall of our new SkyReach attraction at Telford Town Park. You might also have seen me strutting my stuff, dancing in the Telford Carnival procession!
I am different because of the way I was brought up. I was born and brought up in Anfield, in Liverpool, the son of an immigrant Punjabi family. We were blessed with a close-knit community of British and Indian friends and family.
It meant I was immersed in both cultures which allowed me to gain an understanding of what it means to be British, what it means to be Indian and, most importantly, what it means to be part of a community.
I moved to Telford 13 years ago with my family where I lived in Muxton, and now live in Horsehay with my wife Poonam who is a local GP and my two children. As a borough councillor, member of Ketley Parish Council and school governor for Lawley Primary, I know Telford inside and out. I was a Special Constable with West Midlands Police for 10 years and I have spent nearly two decades in the NHS where I now manage a GP practice and am chairman of Health & Engagement Forum.
These experiences have given me many opportunities to learn at grass roots level the views of people. Throughout my time in Telford my family and I have been made to feel very welcome and I have continued to enjoy the same community spirit I experienced as a child in Liverpool.
This is why I love Telford so much and why I was delighted and honoured to accept the role as the borough’s mayor. It is this unity that I have enjoyed and experienced that I strive to nurture in every aspect of my life and particularly during my mayoral year.
Getting out and about in the community as much as possible is my top priority over the next year. Take a look at my Twitter account at @TandWMayor - Here you’ll see that I am open to listening and representing the views of communities in Telford from businesses to charities and residents of all ages.
From attending the Telford Community Pride Awards, launching a new fishing festival, leading the parade at the Carnival of Giants where thousands of people came together, there are lots of great things to celebrate.
For my year in office, I plan to focus on raising the profile of these amazing community and voluntary groups, working to support the multi-faith community and broaden diversity within Telford & Wrekin – a metaphorical bridge builder if you like, which is how I grew up.
My role in office means I get to work with communities every day and help to celebrate diversity. I also want to make sure everyone knows about these good things and also what a wonderful borough we live in. I want people to know about the opportunities available here and the amazing community we have.
During the year I will be visiting schools in the hope of building a strong sense of civic pride. I use every opportunity available to me to help people learn about different societies and cultures and to understand that unity is the most important thing.
I plan to visit as many people as possible this year with pensioners, residential and nursing homes one of my priorities. These people should not be forgotten as not only are they the ones who grew up and laid the foundations for Telford, but they also keep voluntary organisations running.
To support the different community groups in Telford I have launched a grant fund scheme called Building Bridges, where grants will be available for the benefit of local voluntary organisations undertaking charitable activities.
The fund’s primary focus is on social needs and the disadvantaged or deprived.
To get involved in supporting local voluntary and community groups, you can help organise an event or donate to the fund. Full details on how to apply for a grant are available online at telford.gov.uk/info/20242/councillors_mps_and_meps/357/mayors_charity_appeal or contact the Mayor’s Office on 01952 380110.
Telford was created as a new town through the coming together of many strong, proud and historic communities. Now, 50 years later, let us all celebrate the growing diversity of the town and the borough. "